Album Review: Thee Oh Sees- An Odd Entrances

an-odd-entrances-album-thee-oh-sees

Ok, before I get into this album, there’s something else I wanna talk about, and that’s the absolutely absurd rate at which these guys release albums. The record I’m talking about today is their TWELFTH album as Thee Oh Sees, EIGHTEENTH if you count the albums they released before changing their name to Thee Oh Sees. For a band that’s only been around since the mid 2000s, that’s pretty insane, especially since most established artists in 2016 will usually wait two or three years between releases. This is definitely not the first time they’ve dropped more than one album in a single year, but I believe the three or so months between the release of A Weird Exits and An Odd Entrances is the shortest turnaround for full length albums this band have seen.

Part of the reason for the extremely short wait for this album is that this An Odd Entrances is supposed to be a companion piece to A Weird Exits, having been recorded at the same time as that album. The two records couldn’t be more different though. This is a very unique piece of Thee Oh Sees’ discography for one main reason: it’s generally pretty quiet. Thee Oh Sees are a loud, noisy band, and most of their records are filled to the brim with searing guitar noise and distorted everything, all moving at high speeds. But this jettisons that approach for the most part, choosing to take it slow and smooth. The band have always inhabited an odd niche somewhere between garage punk and swirling psychedelia, but this album embraces the latter in a way that was hinted towards but never fully incorporated on the A Weird Exits. That’s not to say that An Odd Entrances fully removed from it’s big brother record; quite the opposite actually, as you might be able to guess from the title. The two are definitely linked. In fact, two of the songs here are explicit sequels to tracks that appeared on A Weird Exits. In the case of “Unwrap The Fiend”, we actually finally get Part One of that song after Part Two was (rather confusingly) released earlier. But enough about the continuity of the record, what actually goes on within? Like I said earlier, the contents of An Odd Entrances are decidedly more low octane than the band’s usual output. You’re not going to get anything on a similar intensity level as “Gelatinous Cube” or “I Come From The Mountain”, but this does offer a greater variety in texture than the standard Thee Oh Sees approach. This is definitely the band’s most low-key sounding outing since Castlemania, but whereas the softer sound of that record was counterweighted by more abstract experimentalism and one of the most lo-fi productions the band has attempted, this uses its lower volume level for the purpose of creating some really pretty musical textures to play around in. Highlights include the strings-inflected “The Poem” a beautiful piece of music in it’s own right that wouldn’t sound out of place among the more pastoral tracks on the Beatles’ White Album. Another favorite is the jazzy “At The End, On The Stairs”, held together by an infectious Latin tinged groove and an uncharacteristically catchy vocal line from John Dwyer, delivered in his characteristic falsetto, all of which clashes hilariously with the gruesome lyrics. It’s odd how these type of vocals seem to really fit here better than they do amongst the rest of the band’s music. Thee Oh Sees are a band with a sonic palette in which the vocals are often sort of blurred into the backdrop while the riffs provide the hook, but the quieter nature of this record pushes the singing more into the foreground, and it seems that Dwyer took this opportunity to flesh out the vocal hooks in a way that I don’t think has ever really been explored by the band. It pays off in an album that is more immediately accessible, an ambition that A Weird Exits had already gotten the band on the path towards in my opinion. However, I don’t think this really hits quite the same highs as A Weird Exits did. The last track here is an eight minute behemoth called “Nervous Tech (Nah John)”. Maybe I was expecting something on the same beautifully transcendent level as “Crawl Out From The Fallout”, but rather it’s just a sort of free form jam. There’s not even really any sort of hook, just one repeating chord over a bunch of starts and stops and noisy guitar stabs. It’s a more of a sputtering out than concrete end, resulting in a pretty weak finish overall. And while I do enjoy the instrumental tracks present, they don’t seem to really link up musically with the songs they share a title with on A Weird Exits. Overall, I think the direction the band takes on this record is a worthwhile journey to embark on, and I eagerly await what they do with this in the future, even if they don’t completely stick the landing on An Odd Entrances. More importantly, I think it’s important that the band start branching out at this point in their career. They’ve put out so many records over a relatively short period of time that, given a few more releases, their music, while still of a high quality, could be viewed as a bit repetitive. Rather than immediately switch over to a new sound, it’s a pretty smart move to ease into it like they’ve been doing on the past two records.

Standout Tracks

-The Poem

-At The End, On The Stairs

-You Will Find It Here

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