Oh Sees - Smote Reverser - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Oh Sees - Smote Reverser

by Tim Sentz Rating:6 Release Date:2018-08-17
Oh Sees - Smote Reverser
Oh Sees - Smote Reverser

Somewhere around 2015 I stopped caring about (Thee) Oh Sees. So many of their records became derivative and boring. The excitement had dissipated, and the yearly psych-exploration became bogged down by albums that felt half-assed or just contract requirements. Last year they released two sub-par albums – Orc, a 50-minute explosion of garage psych that was only half an album as the latter section focused entirely on jam sessions; and Memory of a Cut Off Head which was a direct throwback to 60s garage rock a la The Kinks. I preferred Memory but there was still a lot missing from the music, something that hadn’t been overly present since Putrifiers II – accessible but still genre bending music. Thankfully Smote Reverser doesn’t subject us to all the same pitfalls, only a few.

Kicking things off in prime form is “Sentient Oona,” with its crisp vocals and hypnotic oohs before transcending into pulsating riffage. It’s a great start, if not a bit too samey for Dwyer’s band of psych-rockers. It’s nothing new, and for a varied songwriter like Dwyer it’s a bit of a disappointment that not much has changed for them. Much like Ty Segall’s recent output, Oh Sees ride the line between being casual drifters of the psych genre – they get weird with their noodling on “Enrique El Cobrador” but venture down this path too often on Smote, so it ends up unbalanced.

“C” and “Overthrown” were the only glimpses into the album prior to release, and they offer two different peeks into it. “C” is casual garage rock, the most Putrifiers II Dwyer’s gotten in recent years. “Overthrown” on the other hand is opposite of what Oh Sees have done and is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Psych meets hardcore with frenetic freakouts, it’s that rare aggressiveness we don’t see often enough.

Smote Reverser is a bit of a mixed bag, in that it features some of the more accessible material that John Dwyer has created in the last five years or so, but it continues that venture into the unknown that has run rampant through the last few Oh Sees records, ad nauseum. He’s most at home when he allows the music to flow naturally, and that’s why the most recent Oh Sees records have felt more jammy and less cohesive. The centerpiece of Smote Reverser is “Anthemic Aggressor” and it’s everything I can’t stand about the Oh Sees of the 2010s – meandering and plodding along as if its sole purpose is to take up time on the record. Twelve minutes of screechy guitars and rhythmic percussion just drone on and on.

“Abysmal Urn” brings things back to normal, with a tight 3-minutes or so of sweetly harmonized Dwyer vocals, and gorgeous guitar strumming. It’s everything you want from Oh Sees and represents a natural high point of the album. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last – “Flies Bump Against the Glass” and “Beat Quest” close out the album much like Orc did with excessive experimentation that trails off to finish. At almost an hour long, Smote Reverser feels like a chore for a majority of its runtime. It’s electrifying at times, but still indicates that the band are unwilling to meld their roots with their new direction. Essentially, every record since Drop has sounded like an extension or B-side collection of the previous entry. It makes for a frustrating listen, even if there are glimmers of hope scattered throughout.

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