Thee Oh Sees – “Floating Coffin”
Thee Oh Sees began (originally The OCs) when California band Coachwhips split up. What started as a one man project of acoustic and noise explorations eventually grew into a full band changing names a couple times with the same theme eventually evolving into Thee Oh Sees. On this album, Floating Coffin, they are John Dwyer, Mike Shoun, Brigid Dawson, and Petey Dammit (not to mention the help they got from the extremely talented Lars Finberg and Chris Woodhouse). While over the past year the majority of their releases have been on In The Red Records, this will be their 3rd release, of over 30, on Dwyer’s (co)own(ed) Castle Face Records. He has stated immense gratitude to In The Red for teaching him about the recording process and helping him put out so many albums, but feels that he needs to control the process more. Despite this fact, this album was written differently than the previous albums. Typically Dwyer will bring some songs to the band and everyone will add and build around what he has already created. This time he set aside some recording time and went in with nothing, except a few songs they had already had in rotation on setlists at live shows.
Musically the album is very reminiscent of fan favorite Help. It is enjoyable all the way through, keeping up the high energy psychedelic garage rock they are known for playing live. The opening track, “I Come From the Mountain,” brings to mind Molly Hatchet with the difference being more psychedelic music, dark lyrics, and it is actually good. As has been very clear since she joined the band Brigid Dawson’s voice is a strong force driving their sound beyond just a good band and into that something better. John continues to deliver stellar vocals as well whether yelling in the strange accent he uses or singing the high notes with Brigid. They have been playing the same style of music together for a while now and it seems like they are all very comfortable with the mechanics that produce consistently solid albums. This band has such a prolific output that it is astonishing how good the music continues to be. One of the more frequent complaints that I have heard of their albums would be that the constant output causes a lot of mediocre or just bad songs to end up coming out. While I can sometimes partially agree with the complaint, it is not the case here. This album is enjoyable from start to finish, although I will say that there are fewer and less prominent standout tracks when comparing this album to the entire catalog.
Lyrically the album takes us to a dark world that is constantly driven by war. The lyrics are simple and repetitive, yet sometimes haunting. I see a picture painted similar to the one illustrated by Phillip K. Dick in his many novels that dictated how we would destroy ourselves. While certain themes definitely have a futuristic theme, many are completely relatable to modern times, such as “Minotaur” and the feeling of disparity that comes with our day to day labors. Despite the dark tones of the album, the band can’t help keeping a light heart as is obvious on the video they released for “Minotaur.”
This is definitely an album that you want to have and if it at all possible on vinyl. Castle Face Records is going to re-press (the already sold out) clear vinyl that comes with a bonus flexi-disc. This means that you get and additional cherry on top: Brigid Dawson’s beautiful, yet haunting, voice singing “There Is A Balm In Gilead.” Thee Oh Sees let us know they are still in their prime and I can assure you we are listening.
Review by Cameron Johnson.