Thee Oh Sees: Hyped Up About Castlemania

TVD NYC Contributor Danny Meza explains the history and the hype around Thee Oh Sees’ new record.

Many previews and reviews of Thee Oh SeesCastlemania brand the new record as an evolution of the band from a hard-core garage outfit into a sunny, psychedelic ensemble. These characterizations tell only half of the truth, however.

Castlemania implies more musical revolution than evolution (no, that wasn’t a shameless, half-witted vinyl pun) in that the music returns to an earlier sound and is not an entirely new venture. Three of Thee Oh Sees’ previously acclaimed records, Warm Slime, Help, and The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In, are in fact true, genius psychedelic-garage freak shows. Before these achievements, though, Thee Oh Sees released gentler, yet occasionally creepy folk records. Sucks Blood, Dog Poison, and Cool Death of the Island Raiders are just three testaments to the sound John Dwyer and company crafted prior to becoming perhaps the foremost high-energy rock band in America. Until now, these folk sounds existed as obscured DNA strands from which Thee Oh Sees came.

mp3 | “Pleasure Blimps”

One element to Castlemania’s revolutionary quality is the homecoming of a Dwyer-centric sound. The new LP doesn’t feature second guitarist Petey Dammit or drummer Mike Shoun, both playing huge parts in the more recent, heavier sound of Thee Oh Sees. In fact, Dwyer fashions himself much like San Francisco-born, neo-psychedelic legend Anton Newcombe on this record; playing guitar, bass, harmonica, keyboards, synthesizer, flute, and clarinet, in addition to his vocals. Brigid Dawson returns as the beautiful foil to Dwyer’s often echoing voice. Several guests also contribute to Castlemania, including Ty Segall on drums for the cut “A Wall, A Century.”

Recorded at his apartment on Haight Street, Castlemania partially resuscitates Dwyer’s earlier work, fusing it with the frenetic sounds cultivated over the last three or four years with the four-piece band. The title number, “Stinking Cloud,” and “Pleasure Blimps” will remind listeners of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and Tomorrow, while incorporating the vast and impeccable production work of more recent Oh Sees records. Distinctively, “Corprophangist” and “Corrupted Coffin” call on the sound that has literally moved fans to swing from the rafters in recent years (see YouTube for “Block of Ice” at SWSX 2010 or the band’s video for “Meat Step Lively”). Castlemania, available now through In The Red Records, comes beautifully packaged on 2 LPs, one opaque-colored and the other black with an elaborate etching on one side.

When the term “revolution” is used correctly in historical or political contexts, it actually signifies an attempted return to a previously used form of government, not simply a change in leadership. So when listeners are telling everyone they know about Castlemania, possibly this year’s finest release, they can give their audiences a music and history lesson.

This entry was posted in TVD New York City. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text