The hiatus lasted four months. Last December Thee Oh Sees leader John Dwyer announced at a show on their home turf, San Francisco, they were taking an indefinite break. Maybe Dwyer’s mind scales time differently.
On April 19 Thee Oh Sees released their eighth album, Drop on Castle Face Records. It comes almost one year exactly since their last album, Floating Coffin. The album is a tiny nugget of surf rock psychedelia, or surfedelia, with the hypnotic buzz of Dwyer’s guitar leading the charge. His riffs are jagged, monotone, restrained and cut right through.
First track, “Penetrating Eye,” erupts into a twin-guitar attack of heavy fuzz sounding like a looser, non-confrontational MC5. “Encrypted Bounce” is a spiraling take on UK garage rock and surf rock riding the waves of intergalactic inertia. The song ends with little morsels of guitar riffs washing up on the shore.
Thee Oh Sees is the culmination of Dwyer’s past solo experiments, starting in 1997. Since then, it’s turned into a full band, under different names, switching genres and releasing an album a year since 2004 (two in 2011). Drop is the eighth album credited to Thee Oh Sees, currently a five-piece.
The album is gorgeously lazy, like the band woke one morning in the garage, pressed record, and thirty-one minutes later, there it was, Drop. It’s rock and roll at its wooziest. The drums on “Savage Victory” tick-tock like a metronome while a growling guitar lurks in every measure. The guitar on “Camera” is so dirty when I took my headphones off mud fell out of my ears. “Transparent World” two canals of feedback flow outward to the song’s final tributary. The bass pokes along and Dwyer sings from the next galaxy over.
Dwyer’s voice takes many forms. At once sounding like a whip-it addicted Ringo Starr, or the androgynous Pat, or the boy next door. On “Put Some Reverb On My Brother” he’s a nasally bee zipping through the song. The ninth and final song, “The Lens,” finds Dwyer gasping in verses of melancholia. “We’re both alive at the same time again,” he sweetly sings. A lilting cello presses gently against fluttering drum rolls for a serene finish.