The double album can contain some of the best music to come out for its era, or it can be the worst idea an artist could have. Some of the greatest records of all time are double albums, and achieving a spectacular double LP is often elusive for many who try. For a band like Oh Sees, the double album seems not achievable but likely as well. The amount of well written and performed material to come from John Dwyer’s hands in the band’s career is miraculous, and at times hard to believe. So it shouldn’t be a shock that the band’s new double album Face Stabber is one of the most intriguing and audibly delightful records you may hear in a good while. Because the band has covered so much ground in the past five albums, you can throw genre out the window and just sit back to soak in all of the madness that the album illustrates.
Choosing to open the album with a squeaky dog toy and drums seams about right for this band, and so “The Daily Heavy” opens that way. There’s a level of musicianship on this song and throughout the album that’s literally unmatched in most modern music. The way that the drums stride the song while synths and bass copulate to form a groove here is like watching a painting without intent get made. The upbeat pacing signifies a solid beginning to a ride that steers and spins into its own universe. This is best showcased with the following track, “The Experimenter.” The guitars that squeal and mix in a funk infused rhythm before what sounds closest to free jazz playing come in. The vocals aren’t the focus here, the bizarre rules over the mundane of the world here.
Where “Scutum & Scopius” go down a path that reminds you of something created by The Alan Parsons Project, and “Captain Loosely” has the vibes of an interstellar soundtrack to a Summer space film that may never get released; the experimental isn’t where the intrigue of this release lies. No, save that for the attacking approach the band takes on tracks that could pass for the normal from any other band. “Gholu” sounds like a space riffed dream where cyber punks are playing for a dystopian war zone where the survivors of the apocalypse have something to rage to. “Heart Worm” has the intensity of a band trying to destroy their speakers with outright intensity and pure overdrive while keeping the circle pit attendees at the show happy that they just have some place to belong.
And it doesn’t end there as a track like “Psy-Ops Dispatch” have a free form jazz meets psych rock touch, yet the level of craft in each not places it on a higher plane than anyone trying to make a living from either genre. Or how “Together Tomorrow” reminds you of a theme song from a seventies cop show if the producers had great taste in music theory. With all of this including the twenty minute jams of “Henchlock” and the upbeat precision behind “Poisoned Stones,” the band’s highest shining moment comes with the song “Snickersnee.” From the outside looking in, it seems like another upbeat song with eccentricities like some of the other snappy tracks of the release. However, with closer examination it contains some of the more complex compositions of the fourteen songs within. The stabs of guitar, the moaning backing tones and the mixture of drum and bass that work together in tandem to mystically expand the song’s movements. It’s masterful and powerful while having the pop notations of staying interesting throughout. If changing direction with every album is done to keep us from ever knowing where Oh Sees will go, Face Stabber is the result of all of those incarnations, even if that was never the point.
Face Stabber will be officially released tomorrow and will be available for purchase from all digital store fronts as well as directly from Castle Face Records. Oh Sees are on tour August 19 in Charleville, France at Cabaret Vert Festival until October 31 in Los Angeles, CA at Teragram Ballroom. The band’s entire tour schedule can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Conner Lyons.