Thee Oh Sees - Mutilator Defeated At Last

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2015-05-25

Psych-rock’s most prolific riffers are back yet again with another album that sounds like the hairiest bits of Hendrix, 13th Floor Elevators, Neu!, Cream, The Doors, King Crimson, Can, and The Monks mashed together and then smooshed on Syd Barrett’s bonce to melt like wax while he mumbles something about vegetables and plays the same chords for two hours straight. At this juncture in Thee Oh Sees recording career, this basically means everything here also sounds like the best bits of Thee Oh Sees mashed together. But hey, no one’s saying that’s a bad thing, right?

One great thing about that is the fact Mutilator Defeated at Last is a perfectly decent introduction to newcomers. A word of warning though: if you’re not already au fait with this band, prepare to be buried under a veritable wasteland of crusty hippie slurry. On the beautiful, organ-led ‘Sticky Hulks’ (brilliant name) John Dwyer murmurs about “Astral seasons” drifting, but for the most part the cosmic vibes are kept purely musical and are all the more vital for being unshackled from the kind of cod-spiritual cobblers with which our forefathers allowed Crispian Mills to blight the 90s.

Mostly, Thee Oh Sees like to rock like motherfuckers, something they do the devastating effect on opener ‘Web’, which befits its name by vibrating along on tendrils of spindly guitar and trembling drums until a euphoric “Woo!” introduces a series of extended fret-board workouts. ‘Withered Hand’ (another excellent name) begins like a sound-collage tribute to electronic pioneers Bebe and Louis Barron before it suddenly explodes into a full-on stoner rock behemoth complete with gurgling evil bastard voice.

‘Poor Queen’ has a supersonic pop melody buried under its monster sludge, all the better to underpin a surprisingly sympathetic lyric about a woman looking for direction in her life. ‘Turned Out Light’ is country-boy rock of the kind Kings of Leon played for five minutes before they turned into dead-eyed stadium stooges. ‘Lupine Ossuary’, however, takes that good ol’ boy vibe and shoots it into interstellar overdrive, Dwyer’s ceaseless widdling and chugging like Barrett jamming with Hendrix while bad acid creeps in.

Bringing up the rear of the record are two short tracks before the drawn-out final. ‘Holy Smoke’ is a spooky folk-rock instrumental with some lovely 70s sci-fi synth. Unfortunately, ‘Rogue Planet’ is the album’s weakest moment, being just a riff and little else. ‘Palace Doctor’ closes Mutilator Defeated at Last in a similar vein to how it began: all creepy 60s spy guitars and tippy-toe drums slowly worming their way into your nervous system.

So there you have it. Thee Oh Sees don’t really change too much, but what they do, they do really well. Despite their shifting line-ups and occasional hiatuses, they may turn out to be this generations Ozric Tentacles, still making out-there records with reliable frequency in another 20 years. No bad thing, surely? 

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