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Oh Sees
Face Stabber Nick Roseblade , August 26th, 2019 08:51

Whether its Oh Sees, Orinoka Crash Suite, OCS, Orange County Sound, The Ohsees, The Oh Sees, or Thee Oh Sees, John Dwyer's records can be an enjoyably discombobulating experience, finds Nick Roseblade

Venturing into John Dwyer’s back catalogue is not for the faint hearted. Under guise of Oh Sees, Orinoka Crash Suite, OCS, Orange County Sound, The Ohsees, The Oh Sees, Thee Oh Sees, Dwyer has released a prolific 21 albums, and as many singles and Eps, since 2003. Musically he encompasses alternative, garage, psych, punk and experimental rock. At times it can be an enjoyably discombobulating experience, but the frenzied ad-hoc nature of the songs can be jarring and headache inducing. Luckily on his new album Face Stabber Dwyer and co. hit on that winning formula again.

This time the songs have a 60’s Nuggets vibe, with flourishes of prog, to them. The riffs are searing and unrelenting, organs huge and ungainly and the drumming is sublime. Imagine an elongated Old Grey Whistle Test live session, or a long lost track that would appear on the Amorphous Androgynous ‘A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding in Your Mind’ comps and you’re on the right lines. There is a giddy playfulness to ‘Face Stabber’ that is hard to ignore. It feels that for the first time in a long time Dwyer is just having a laugh and seeing where the songs go.

The songs that really hang the album together are ‘S.S. Luker’s Mom’ and ‘Henchlock’. ‘S.S. Luker’s Mom’ is a short instrumental is just rammed full of catchy melodies, heavy riffs and incendiary solos. As its one of the shorter tracks on ‘Face Stabber’ is feels more concise and measured. Album closer ‘Henchlock’ on the other hand is a monster at 21 minutes. Despite the gargantuan duration ‘Henchlock’ is a tight and focused song. The melody is catchy and has a playful bounce to that encourages improvisation and sonic detours. And this is the point of the album. Dwyer has crafted 14 songs that allow him, and his band, to go off on tangents and breakdowns. But this depends on your tolerance for improvising and solos that is.

Face Stabber could be the most experimental album Dwyer has released for a while, but this is also its downfall. The album consists of 14 songs and lasts 80 mins. There is definitely room for some trimming. A third could easily be trimmed without damaging the listening experience too much. At the core of Face Stabber is a fun album that gets better with each listen but when it drags, and in places it does, it feels like a laborious chore to get to the good stuff again.

The album lives up to its name. From the moment it starts it is an unrelenting, and visceral, album. In the past Dwyer has used sound, and tone, to hammer home his message. On Face Stabber he uses catchy melodies and riffs instead. The most important Oh Sees album is the most recent one but if you don’t get on with it, don’t worry as there will probably be another one released in a few months anyway. In fact Dwyer has probably already recorded it and got the artwork sorted.