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04.23.19 Oh Sees: A Career Overview

Oh Sees: A Career Overview

A band with 20ish albums that releases at least one album every year and changes their name/genre regularly? Seems daunting to get into on a site where not much has been written about this band. Here is a quick, rough breakdown of albums chronologically, not a ranking by any means. There are really 3 main groupings here: Early folk experiments (OCS through Cool Death), noisy garage rock (Sucks Blood through Putrifiers), and More polished Psych/Krautrock/Garage Punk/whatever else they're feeling at the moment (Floating Coffin until now). There's probably a lot I don't know or didn't describe well on a number of these. Feel free to fill me in! Just attempting to outline the career of a band I've come to enjoy for those who may not know anything.

OCS kicks off as a very hushed psychedelic folk experiment. Lots of very noisy tape recordings of Dwyer playing an acoustic guitar and singing along with random sounds abounding and many short tracks. These first four albums are kind of reminiscent of early Elvrum recordings in some ways. A lot of these tracks are a bit of a chore at times, but some really interesting and pleasant gems pop up every couple of songs.
Songs About Death and Dying: Vol. 3
OCS 4: Get Stoved
5Oh Sees
The Cool Death of Island Raiders

Thee Oh Sees takes form as a band on Raiders and Sucks Blood. These early albums were largely recorded live as a group from what I understand. A little more structured here, but not my favorites.
6Oh Sees
Sucks Blood
7Oh Sees
The Master's Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In

Here is where the band starts to really take shape. More structured tracks, and a great track in "Block of Ice" make this a decent listen.
8Oh Sees

Now Help is a proper Oh Sees album. Here is where we kick into high gear, starting off that garage rock, psych punk style that they've continued to perfect until today. Lots of loud, scratchy, catchy tracks on this album. "Enemy Destruct" is a great track that encompasses the sound on this one.
9Oh Sees
Dog Poison

A bit more acoustic on Dog Poison, and I believe Warm Slime was recorded almost entirely as live band takes. Neither of these I find too interesting, but decent listens. Warm Slime sees them stretching their song lengths even into 10+ minutes, which we will see much more of later.
10Oh Sees
Warm Slime
11Oh Sees

Here is a really, really weird album. Also a great one. Castlemania is a really bizarre journey through a violent fantasy land. This is a real studio album for Oh Sees, as their are plenty of overdubs and crazy sounds all over. Quite a few acoustic tracks with Dwyer quite literally yelping over them. He begins singing in strange voices on many of these songs, sometimes sounding like he's attempting to do an impression of a bullfrog. There's quite a bit of horns across some of these, and his arrangements are.... disturbing in the least. They almost never match up with the time signature or the key signature of the rest of the song. Sometimes the percussion just takes off without the other instruments. A fascinating album, hard to imagine how so many bad sounds together can make something so interesting to listen to. And it's still catchy and fun!
12Oh Sees
Carrion Crawler/The Dream

Another gritty album of rough edged bangers. Lots of great tracks across this one like Carrion Crawler. Dwyers electric guitar tricks start to ramp up at this point, sliding and slicing his way around a 12 string like it was never meant to be played in such a way, but that's what makes it fun. Krautrock influence starts to creep in more and more, and there's even a cover of Can's "Soul Desert".
13Oh Sees
Putrifiers II

This one's got a little more polish and structure to it, as far as Oh Sees go. Whatever that means. Good listen, but one of the least interesting of the "loud garage rock Oh Sees era".
14Oh Sees
Floating Coffin

Here is where the noise and fuzz drops off. Now we've reached the "actual good recording quality Oh Sees" era. Here or "Mutilator" is a great starting place for new people. We also begin the "classic Dwyer" formula of the following in an album: Several absolute bangers, a couple very interesting experiments, a few good tracks that are 2 minutes too long, and a couple tracks are inexplicably like 10 minutes and they should have been a short segue.
15Oh Sees

Much more subdued than their last several albums. Less interesting than some others here, but some really good songs. Check out "Penetrating Eye" (Oh Sees have a thing for putting very strong tracks first off).
16Oh Sees
Mutilator Defeated At Last

Fantastic album, with a great balance of awesome songs and very little filler. Much like floating Coffin. Some of their best songs are here, and finally a 7 minute song that is absolutely worth its entire run time in "Sticky Hulks".
17Oh Sees
A Weird Exits

Another great album, but with more filler here. First half of the album is fantastic, second half is a crawl. "The Axis" ends wonderfully with a guitar solo that quite literally sounds like a nuke going off.
18Oh Sees

Orc is where Oh Sees finally make use of both drummers on an album. The Krautrock drum style and breakbeats really come through here, and it's a fantastic addition to their sound. No matter what's going on the drums are always playing at a million miles an hour, filling up space and keeping things moving. A great album with several filler tracks, continuing the trend.
Memory Of A Cut Off Head

Back to OCS for one more run at some folk sounds! This one is far more sophisticated than their original folk albums, with a lot of interesting songs surrounded by string arrangements and harpsichord. Lots of hushed vocal duets from Dwyer and Dawson make for a nice break up in their late discography.
20Oh Sees
Smote Reverser

This is a bit of an extension of Orc. Still fantastic drumming, this album comes across as more aggressive. The guitar and vocals even wander into metal territory at times (warning: using that comparison very loosely).
Overall a very good album that stands as the usual, several bangers, some filler, overall very positive. The last few albums show the Oh Sees become a really polished machine, and it's a great thing to listen to even if it doesn't change a whole lot.
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