Ter­rell’s Tune-Up

Steve Ter­rell praises Mutilator De­feated at Last by Thee Oh Sees

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In Dec. 2013, John Dwyer — the lead singer, gui­tarist, song­writer, and res­i­dent vi­sion­ary of Thee Oh Sees — said the band was tak­ing a break from the mu­sic biz. Some fans, in­clud­ing me, thought per­haps Dwyer was end­ing the group while it was at its peak. But since then, the group has re­leased two al­bums: last year’s

Drop and now Mutilator De­feated at Last — a rockin’ mas­ter­piece that will please and de­light old fans and is bound to win new ones.

Dur­ing the band’s brief time­out, Dwyer moved to Los An­ge­les and got a new bunch of Oh Sees to take the place of the band­mates he’d worked with for the past few years. Mutilator is the first to fea­ture Dwyer’s cur­rent tour­ing ver­sion of the group — with Tim Hell­man on bass and drum­mer Nick Mur­ray. The sound is un­mis­tak­ably Oh Sees: rub­bery post-psy­che­delic guitar-based ex­cur­sions into the un­known with dis­torted echoes of garage rock, punk, and noise-rock.

While Drop is a de­cent al­bum, it is marred by too many mel­low and airy-fairy tracks. In re­view­ing it last year, I ac­cused Dwyer of try­ing to chan­nel the Elec­tric Light Or­ches­tra on some songs. For­tu­nately, Mutilator is much closer in sound to my fa­vorite Oh Sees al­bum, 2013’s

Float­ing Cof­fin. Though the new al­bum isn’t with­out its qui­eter mo­ments, for the most part it’s way more fran­tic and raw than

Drop. Open­ing with a bouncy tune called “Web,” which gets denser and louder as the song pro­gresses, Dwyer and his new gang make it ob­vi­ous that this time around, they are here to rock.

The most fe­ro­cious song here is the crazed “Lupine Os­suary,” which fea­tures down­right nasty gui­tars and re­lent­less drums, over which Dwyer’s trade­mark falsetto vo­cals drift in and out. As much as I love it, it’s so in­tense that it’s prob­a­bly a good thing it’s only a lit­tle longer than four min­utes. This is the sec­ond song by Thee Oh Sees to have the word “Lupine” in the ti­tle. Back in 2012, one of the high­wa­ter marks on their al­bum Putri­fiers II was a fierce lit­tle tune called “Lupine Domi­nus.” (What can I say? This is mu­sic you’ll want to wolf down.)

Another fa­vorite on Mutilator is a crunch­ing stomp called “Turned Out Light,” which starts off with a guitar hook right out of some South­ern rock boo­gie. No, no­body’s go­ing to mis­take Thee Oh Sees for the All­man Broth­ers or Wet Wil­lie, but it’s a re­fresh­ing touch. “With­ered Hand” de­cep­tively starts off slow, with eerie ef­fects that sound as if you’re stand­ing at the mouth of some wind cav­ern for the first 40 sec­onds or so. But that changes quickly, and the next three min­utes turn into a scream­ing de­mo­li­tion derby of a song. And the hopped up “Poor Queen” sounds like it could be the na­tional an­them of some in­sect na­tion. Yes, I did say there are some qui­eter mo­ments on

Mutilator De­feated at Last. “Holy Smoke,” fea­tur­ing an acous­tic guitar and a mel­lotron, and the key­board heavy “Sticky Hulks” both re­mind me of mel­low Di­nosaur Jr. tunes such as “Thumb.” And speak­ing of bands of that era, Jane’s Ad­dic­tion could easily cover “Palace Doc­tor,” which closes the al­bum. All three of these start off nice and mel­low, but none of them stay that way for the whole song.

It’s good to know that Thee Oh Sees haven’t drifted away as so many feared might hap­pen back in late 2013. They truly are one of the finest rock ’n’ roll bands walk­ing the Earth — and maybe other plan­ets — to­day. If you’re not fa­mil­iar with them, wise up. They’re just a few clicks away on the in­ter­net mu­sic ser­vice of your choice. And if you’re won­der­ing which al­bum to start with, Mutilator De­feated at Last is as good a place as any.

Good news for New Mexico Oh Sees devo­tees. The group is sched­uled to play at the Launch­pad in Al­bu­querque on Thurs­day, Sept. 24. Tick­ets are only $12. Check them out be­fore they go on hia­tus again! Also, there’s all kinds of cool stuff at www.theeohsees.com.

Also rec­om­mended:

▼ Moto bunny by Moto bunny. This is one of the more fun-filled CDs to cross my desk in re­cent weeks. Moto bunny is a hardrock­ing four­some fronted by two women: Christa Collins and Ni­cole Lau­r­rene.

In their mu­sic I hear Joan Jett, a lit­tle Sleater-Kin­ney, some Don­nas, and in some songs (here’s the sur­prise) the B-52s. In fact, Collins and Lau­r­rene sound so much like Kate and Cindy on “Spi­der & Fly” and “You’re Killing Me” that you easily can imag­ine ei­ther song be­ing played in a med­ley with “Rock Lob­ster.” Like the 52s ladies, Collins and Lau­r­rene tend to sing in uni­son rather than har­mony.

“Spi­der” is my fa­vorite on this de­but al­bum, but there are other good ones. “Apoca­lypse Twist” lives up to its name. “You’re Killing Me” is a rag­ing stomp. The group has its own “Hey, hey we’re The Mon­kees”-like theme song in “Moto bunny,” which fea­tures a souped-up Peter Gunn guitar riff. And the fi­nal song, “I Warned You,” is down­right pretty. The melody sounds like some long-lost Shangri-Las B-side that should have been an A-side.

My one com­plaint about this al­bum is that it’s a lit­tle too slick-sound­ing — which is sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing Detroit’s Jim Diamond recorded and mas­tered it. Next time out, I hope Moto bunny keeps it a lit­tle rougher and rawer.

Check out www.mo­to­bun­ny­mu­sic.com.

John Dwyer and his new gang make it ob­vi­ous that this time around,

Thee Oh Sees are here to rock.

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