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Oh Sees
Smote Reverser Julian Marszalek , August 14th, 2018 08:15

They’re prolific, but this time they’re not terrific

With another year comes another album from Oh Sees, led by the ever-restless John Dwyer, and with it comes another stylistic detour to add to their touchstones of garage rock and psychedelia. After the explosive ramalama of 2017’s Orc and the pastoral Memory Of A Cut Off Head a few months later, it should probably come as no surprise that Oh Sees have set sail into proggier waters.

What this means in practical terms is that John Dwyer has fallen for the charms of the nimble-fingered and unrestrained works of Jon Lord and Keith Emerson; the resulting album is an hour-long trawl of sprawling and frequently unwieldy music. A band has got to keep itself interested, especially one that’s ploughed a very particular furrow for nigh-on 20 years, but all too often throughout Smote Reverser it feels as if Oh Sees are playing with forces they can’t control.

It all starts off so promisingly. The opening one-two of ‘Sentient Oona’ and ‘Enrique El Cobrador’ deploys their newly added organ to stunning effect, particularly on the latter track. The component parts of the band’s dual drum attack, deep bass groove and some wonderfully squally guitar flourishes from Dwyer add up to a deeply satisfying whole, one that augurs well for the rest of the album. So it goes for the utterly infectious and hook-laden ‘C’ and the fabulously demented ‘Overthrown’.

Alas, Oh Sees then elect to go for feel over form. The result is some tiresome jamming: the biggest offender is the 12-minute trawl ‘Anthemic Aggressor’, a shapeless marathon of indulgence that’s like a watching a fish with one fin swimming in circles. Similarly, album closers ‘Flies Bump Against Glass’ and ‘Beat Quest’ are an experiment in search of a hypothesis with noodling that feels way longer than it actually is. By the album’s end, they seem to be stuck in a cul-de-sac. The next album, one hopes, will come along soon and help them out.