Thee Oh Sees | Carrion Crawler/The Dream
Most likely to: be the best thing you’ve ever heard until next week when Thee Oh Sees put out their next release.
I was listening to some podcast or another last week – I think it was NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” – and the topic turned to Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices and a familiar chorus of kvetching began. “He puts out too much stuff!” the complaint went. “I can’t keep up!” At some point Ryan Adams was also tossed into the pit with Pollard of bad, bad boys who make us listen to too much music. “It’s hard to know what the good stuff is!” the podcasters moaned. “Which stuff are we supposed to like? Where are the gatekeepers?” (I’m paraphrasing, but only very slightly.)
Good God, when did the hipster community become such whiny little bitches about musicians being prolific? How about them Beatles? They put out twelve fucking albums in roughly six and half years. The Byrds? Pretty much the same scenario. How long did it take Elvis Costello to spew out his peerless five-album opening salvo, along with enough b-sides to fill up the twenty-song collection Taking Liberties? Oh, three and a half years, more or less. The Clash released their first four albums in little more than three years, and one of those was a double and one a triple.
And what was the response back then? “Please, sirs, may we have another?” But now, let Ryan Adams put out two albums in a calendar year and there will be so much bellyaching from the poor dears who are taxed with listening to them you’d think they’d been commanded to make bricks without straw. Gracious! What a weak strain of music fan the world has these days. It must be the result of several decades worth of inbreeding or something, but the music fan of today sure is a weak-spined poindexter if Robert Pollard putting out three albums a year taxes his stamina. I’m sure they would’ve whined back in 1965, too – “Ooooo! Rubber Soul? But the Beatles just put out Help! six months ago! Take it away! It’s hurting our feelings!!!”
Why, such a music fan just doesn’t deserve prolific artists. And they sure don’t deserve a prolific artist like San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees, who’ve been spewing out an album, EP or single of gloriously gnarly garage rock roughly every three hours for the last decade. John Dwyer and Brigid Dawson don’t give three farts if anyone can keep up with their output. They’ve got to rock, and if someone needs to take time to collect their thoughts on any given Thee Oh Sees release and put those thoughts down on annotated note cards and chart out the band’s progression from one album to the next, Dwyer and Dawson will be three albums further down the road by the time that someone gets the cap off their sharpie.
So it’s best, then, to just strap yourself in and come along for the ride, and Thee Oh Sees won’t disappoint you if you have a rockin’ bone in your body. Carrion Crawler/The Dream was the band’s second full-length album of 2011, hard on the heels of the smokin’ Castlemania, and it’s another shit-hot collection of rawboned and raucous riffage. What sets Carrion Crawler apart from most of Thee Oh Sees’ albums is song length – for a band whose songs generally lurk in the two to three minute range, Carrion Crawler is populated by tunes with relatively epic lengths in the six-minute range.
But the great thing about Thee Oh Sees is that they can make a six minute song feel like it’s a third of that length. “Contraption/Soul Desert” roars by like a thirteenth floor elevator plummeting down the shaft after its cable has snapped, while “Carrion Crawler” saunters along all pimp-cool until it explodes into scuzzy guitar fireworks. The album’s other title track, “The Dream,” is nearly seven minutes of galloping, magnificent aggression before segueing into the brief “Wrong Idea,” which feels like two minutes of being punched in the face by a boxing kangaroo. Ten tracks of gut-punching, primitive rock & roll and there’s not a weak sister in the bunch.
Look, I love Radiohead and if it takes them three years to fuss over every blip and bleep and skittering percussion track on their albums, so be it. It’s usually worth the wait. It took Kate Bush six years to record her most recent album. Fine and dandy – I love that album. Some artists are deliberate and take their time and they should be allowed to work however they want. Whatever it takes for them to get the sounds they hear in their heads recorded exactly the way they hear them is exactly what they need to do.
But at the other extreme are artists like Thee Oh Sees, who seem to be too restless to let even a day go by without churning out some glorious noise, and three cheers for them. Some people may get upset if a band releases too much stuff and complain that it’s hard to keep up with, but screw them. As for myself, Thee Oh Sees could release a song an hour every day for a year and as long as they all kicked my ass as thoroughly as every song the band has put out in the last twelve months, it still wouldn’t be enough.
Watch Thee Oh Sees perform “The Dream” live on KEXP below: