Archive for John Dwyer

On “Orc,” Thee Oh Sees’ 19th Album, John Dwyer Makes A Statement

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on August 30, 2017 by johnbuckley100

unnamed-2

Orc is, if you can believe it, Thee Oh Sees’ 19th album.  Though it’s their first album under the name “Oh Sees.”  Whatever this is, however you count it or categorize it, John Dwyer has by now built such a confounding, amazing, gorgeous, pulverizing body of work there should be a monument to him just outside the Temple of Real Rock’n’Roll.

Less than four years ago Santa put a lumpa coal in our Christmas stocking with the news that Thee Oh Sees were breaking up.  It was particularly disheartening because the gang at Tulip Frenzy had just voted Floating Coffin the #2 album on that year’s Top Ten List (c). Lo those many years ago, we wrote, “You have no idea what Thee Oh Sees are going to come out with next!  A No Wave rock opera.  Speed-metal yodeling.  Eddy Cochran backed by zithers. We are completely serious: this is a band that through sheer dint of trying proves every mother’s maxim that if only little Johnny puts his mind to it, he can do anything.  If little Johnny is John Dwyer, the answer is yes, yes he can.  And you would be well advised to catch up.”  Have to say it, that was good advice then, and now.

If John Dwyer had thrown in the towel then, he would have assumed his rightful place in history; that here we are, four years and five albums later, and his replacement unit from the Oh Sees classic of the early part of this decade has now fused into nothing less than a machine and you can see why we are so thrilled that Orc has joined the party.

PsychfestOhsees2

Here’s all you need to really know, if you are not someone whose large ganglia have twitched to Dwyer’s yips and the propulsive drumming of his 100-horsepower twin tyros lashed to the back of his guitar work.  The big question about punk rock was always what it would turn into when the primitives learned to play.  You know, not every band could be the Clash and by Sandinista be playing Mose Allison covers and pushing at the forefront of what was then called rap.  But at least three recs ago, Dwyer showed he could play guitar like Jimi Hendrix.  That he could compose complex rock songs with a power and beauty that rivaled anyone who’s ever admitted to participating in the genre.  That he seriously could, on the same album, mix punk, prog rock, garage, psychedelia, and pop.

Last year, on the matched pair albums of An Odd Entrances and A Weird Exits we really could see adding jazz and Krautrock to that list. He is the magpie’s magpie, but that implies a lack of originality and in fact he’s the opposite.  A guy who as recently as 2011 was playing punk rock at high speeds is now capable of anything.  Here’s an example: on Orc‘s “Keys To The Castle,” we start out on a light jog, John Dwyer singing harmony with (we hope) once + future Oh Sees singer Brigid Dawson, and ‘fore ya know it we’re traversing a steeper pitch with some classic punk chords as the song intensifies.  And there there is a pause… and we come back at slow mo’ speed with cello and organ and synth, in a lovely electric piano chordal half-walk, the sounds of space wrapping your face, and for the next four minutes, you are in a dream.

We’d say he does that on every song, but in fact, “Keys To The Castle” is both a standout and also, if you’ve been paying attention, just exactly what we’ve come to expect from the impossible-to-pin-down Mr. Dwyer and his morphing set of musicians and band names.

For the past six or seven years, we have lived in a Golden Age of Rock’n’Roll due to the presence of John Dwyer, Ty Segall, and White Fence’s Tim Presley.  If the advance word on Wand’s new rec is right, add Cory Hanson to the list of West Coast genies making life worth living.  John Dwyer’s band(s) have pushed forward a 60+-year old genre in part by reconciling all its best pieces.  On Orc, he makes a statement.

And did we mention that just yesterday came word that Thee Oh Sees’ 20th album will be released in… November.  It is said to be coming out under the band’s original name, OCS, and will be “pretty, pastoral, folky, with string arrangements by Heather Locke and brass arrangements by Mikal Cronin.”  We cannot fucking wait.

On Thee Oh Sees’ “A Weird Exits,” It’s Time To Take John Dwyer Seriously

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 13, 2016 by johnbuckley100

cf-080cover_1024x1024

By my count, Thee Oh Sees have released eight albums since 2010, not including greatest hits and rarities.  Even with John Dwyer backed by different incarnations of the band, what Thee Oh Sees’ albums have all had in common is a balance between joyous, thrashing punk rock that transports you to a crowded club heaving with spilled beer and dance sweat and these quieter songs, sometimes instrumentals, that make you go, “Well, that’s pretty.”  On A Weird Exits, the twin strains are in perfect equipoise, the jams offset by much more carefully plotted compositions.  And it makes us realize that it is time to take John Dwyer seriously.

Sure, albums like Floating Coffin and Putrifiers II have loomed large on Tulip Frenzy’s Top 10 Lists over the past half-decade, and you really haven’t lived ’til you’ve seen Thee Oh Sees play live, but with A Weird Exits, it’s time to tell the world: living amongst us, right now, is a deity capable of miracles.  “Plastic Plant” may be a perfect exemplar of Dwyer’s rock’n’roll genius, the double-drum set up calmly rolling along as he sings in a quiet falsetto, before his guitar just crushes it, the ebb and flow between the delicate passages and nuclear war the greatest formula since Black Francis was doing something like this with the Pixies all those years ago.  It’s easy to understand a song like this, or “Dead Man’s Gun,” or the frantic”Gelatinous Cube” were all created for the stage, with Dwyer carving out space to sing sweetly between tsunamis of sound.  So far so good, no need to plea the point that Thee Oh Sees are probably the most exciting live band playing these days.  This is settled fact, stare decicis, things every skateboarder in San Francisco is taught in 4th grade.

But there’s an entirely different side to Thee Oh Sees, and it goes way beyond what Dwyer does with his offbeat guitar tunings, his strange scales, his chirps and rave ups.  On “Jammed Entrance,” the way the double drums begin while the double-tracked guitar noodles along before the instrumental gets going, it’s jazz, man; this is something Miles Davis would have sampled, and not the other way around.

Which leads us to the two songs that end the album, bluesy, gorgeous compositions, a reminder of that other side of Dwyer. “Crawl Out From The Fall Out” has a minor-key undertow and — as some of his coolest songs have in the past — utilizes a Kronos Quartetesque strings arrangement, and it makes you sit up and listen, even though it’s a quiet song, not a trademark garage-psych groove.  Beautiful, beautiful music.  And then rather than follow it up with a rocker, the closer, “The Axis,” sounds like Stevie Winwood jamming with Procol Harem.  Well.  In just a 30-minute snippet of time, such a short interlude in your life, John Dwyer has taken us from the most exciting garage rock of the epoch to deep, moving contemplation.  The guy has it all, including originality.  A Weird Exits, its title rendered ambiguous by the extra “s”, is not only the best Oh Sees album since Floating Coffin, it should be that album that makes audiences of all stripes sit up and notice.

It’s time to take John Dwyer seriously.

 

Thee Oh Sees Burn The Barn Down Again On “Mutilator Defeated At Last”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 28, 2015 by johnbuckley100

John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees is the only Boy Scout in rock’n’roll.  I’m not referring to his lifestyle, about which I know next to nothing.  I am talking about his resourcefulness, in which he can take virtually any material — a button, a line scrawled on a napkin, a rhythm and ragged riff — and fashion it into a song.

Sure, leave Ty Segall in a room with a guitar and he’ll have a song in an hour.  Give Joyce Carol Oates a typewriter and she can probably write a novel in that time.  But Dwyer crafts the most amazing rock’n’roll songs out of single guitar lines, a little falsetto here, a yip there.  At least since 2011’s Carrier Crawler/The Dream, everything Thee Oh Sees have done puts them in the same rare category as young Mr. Segall and his buddy Tim Presley of White Fence: collectively they are saving rock’n’roll, and in Dwyer’s case, seeming to have a real good time doing so.  He is the Happy Warrior: a calm and articulate ringmaster in the eye of a sonic storm.  And now we have Mutilator Defeated At Last, and with it comes assurance that our entire blessed summer looms before us, its soundtrack loaded on our iPhone.

The entire crew at Tulip Frenzy was devastated when word came, late a couple years back, that Thee Oh Sees were going on hiatus.  We hate us bands on hiatus, and it hurt particularly because damn if Floating Coffin wasn’t #2 on Tulip Frenzy’s 2013 Ten Best List (c). The situation clarified a bit not long after: while we were despondent that this particular lineup of Thee Oh Sees was taking a break, Dwyer was just moving to LA and working with a different gang o’ kids.  Drop had some good songs on it, but we chalk up 2014 as a transition year.  All the more reason we were so excited both to see ’em at Levitation: Austin Psych Fest earlier this month, and to learn that the road band was holed up in the studio long enough to record Mutilator Defeated At Last.

And the verdict?  The equal of Floating Coffin, for sure, and better than Putrifiers II.  This is the highest praise! We see a few more of Mr. Dwyer’s catholic influences — no, not the church, but Jimi Hendrix (on the intro to “Lupine Ossuary”) and Joy Division (on “Withered Hand.”)  We have all the ingredients that make Thee Oh Sees so boss: double drums powering the proceedings, Dwyer’s deceptively amazing guitar work, and his vocal range, which we think of as the opposite of Don Van Vleet’s.  (Whereas Captain Beefheart had an alleged seven-octave range starting from the bottom, rising from beneath the basement steps, Dwyer’s range starts from the attic, his cool falsetto, occasionally invoked, descends from there.)

At 33 minutes and change, it is of Goldilocks length, even though we coulda stood another song or two.  But look, a guy who is sophisticated enough as a magpie that he could take a little bit o’ rockabilly rumbling, the traditional verse/chorus/nuclear war set up worked over by bands like the Pixies and Nirvana, add a dollop of Fripp and Eno, and on this one even throw in an acoustic song, and you get a sense of what pure genius consists of.  It is a staple of bad advertising to extol the virtues of those who “think outside the box,” and the paradox of John Dwyer is that he does that — oh yeah, there has never been a songwriter who can make so much of so little, and have it be so original and true — even as he plies the very lines of rock’n’roll idiom.

If you’ve yet to dive in, here’s the place to start.  Close your eyes and he’s burning the house down.  Open ’em again and all is right in the world.

We Live In A Golden Age of Rock’n’Roll, Thanks To Ty Segall, John Dwyer, and Tim Presley

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on July 29, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Our summer vacation is well planned, though on August 26th we are scheduled to be sitting up straight and paying attention at our work desk.  Somehow we doubt we’ll be of much use that day, given the new Joe Boyd-produced Robyn Hitchcock album and Brill Bruisers by the New Pornographers will both have been released by the time we sip our first taste o’  joe.  Yet we know already that the first album we will download that Christmas-in-August morn will be Ty Segall’s Manipulator, a double album — let that settle for a moment — that Uncut Magazine today declares is the definitive work by the 27-year old tyro.  To say we can’t wait the three weeks ’til it is out slightly understates the facts.

Yesterday, we saw a list put together by GQ of the best albums of the Millennium to date.  We eagerly looked… and found a grand total of one rock’n’roll album on the list that truly mattered.  Lots of Kanye and Beyonce and JayZ, but the only album on the list that we would put on our own compendium was PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake.  This might lead you to believe that, since 2000, there hasn’t been a lot of great rock’n’roll music.  That would be wrong.

It is true that we have had a problem since the odometer rolled over on 2000 to even come up with a proper name or description of the decade we are in, which is one reason why the Teens, or whatever it is we call this cohort of ten years following the miserably named Aughts, seems so shapeless.  So inconsequential.  People don’t even think of it as a proper decade, as if it has been one long continuum since the booster rocket fell off on December 31, 1999.  Ladies and Gentlemen, we are floating in space, and of course no one up here can hear you scream.  But if they could hear us… we would right now be sounding a lot like one of those girls in the old Ed Sullivan Show reruns when the Beatles hit the stage.

Yes, allow me to say that since 2010, we have been living in an absolute Golden Age of Rock’n’Roll, and it is largely because of three personalities: Ty Segall, John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, and Tim Presley of Darker My Love and of course White Fence.

They will be seen on no such lists as those compiled by the hacks of the magazine stand.  But any sentient being who cares about real rock’n’roll surely knows that, nearly halfway through the decade, the Teens are shaping up as at least as consequential as the ’90s, which was the best decade for music since the ’60s.  (The ’90s were the ONLY decade since the ’60s when the era’s best and most important music could also claim to be among its most popular, with bands as disparate as Nirvana, R.E.M., Oasis and Blur accompanying less well-known but equally meaningful acts likes the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dandy Warhols, Whiskeytown, Spiritualized, Alejandro Escovedo, and Luna, to name a few, on any proper rundown of the era’s best music.*)

If you read lists like GQ’s, you would be forgiven for immediately wishing to down a bottle of Clorox and ending it all.  But if you think about what pleasure has been handed down to us by Messrs. Segall, Dwyer, and Presley, there is hope.  Better, there is a revelation, milords: this is a Golden Age.

Ty Segall is about to release his 7th album under his own name.  That number doesn’t even include his work with Fuzz, and I don’t think it tallies his collaboration with Mikal Gilmore, or maybe even Tim Presley (Hair by Ty Segall and White Fence.)  Seven of the most exciting fuzz-based, Beatles-infused, punk-rockin’ slabs o’ joy since the British bands dueled with X and our friends in the New York City-based post-CBs cohort to produce that glorious moment between 1978 and 1980, before it all began to go south again, only to pick up the pulse later in the decade with the advent of the Pixies…

John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees have produced so many great albums since 2010 that my playlist is two hours long.  And Tim Presley, confused as he has sometimes been about the right medium through which to capture his muse… a slight man sprinting after Tinkerbell with a cup… who can also morph into a rock’n’roll buzzsaw when he hits the stage… has nonetheless released in just the past nine months a wicked live album and, as of last week, a spectacular White Fence studio album.  Three obscure acts.  A Golden Age.

Look, so far this decade, we have loved work by Capsula, PJ Harvey, the black ryder, Bob Dylan, BJM, Cat Power, Cosmonauts, Crocodiles, Dean Wareham, The Evens, First Communion Afterparty, Kelley Stoltz, Kurt Vile, Black Mountain, Magic Trick, Mikal Cronin, Neko Case, Parquet Courts, Phosphorescent, Quilt, Woods, Sleepy Sun, White Denim, and even Tame Impala.  With all the bad vibes emanating from points near and far, we should settle down and settle in, for the ’10s or Teens or whatever we call it are producing some of the greatest music in the 60+ year history of rock’n’roll.  There is a lot more crap out there, of course, and few of the bands named above are making a dent on the Big Lists by the Big Magazines.  But in no small part due to three men, the aforementioned Segall, Dwyer, and Presley, when the real history… the secret history… of music in the new Millennium is written, it will be written in gold.

 

* We understand the argument that the ’70s, like the ’60s, had some of its best bands also turn out to be the most commercially successful.  The Stones, Bowie, Led Zep, yeah, we get it.  But since we think the truly best albums of the decade were by the Clash and Television and Brian Eno, and since none of them really were all that big commercially (the Clash didn’t become big in the US til 1980), we’re going to let our statement stand, if you don’t mind…

At Long Last, A Proper Studio Album From White Fence, And A Gem It Is

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on July 22, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Keith Richards tells the story of how the hollow-sounding chords at the beginning of “Street Fighting Man” were recorded on a little cassette in a hotel room.  We were beginning to get the feeling that if Tim Presley wrote such a masterpiece — he’s written others — he would have released that hotel output, never bothering to go into the studio.  Thank Heavens the Stones had the good sense to release the song in its full sonic glory, studio treatment and hotel track, tinny chords and all.  And thank God that Ty Segall — maybe that’s redundant — persuaded Presley to go into a studio to create For The Recently Found Innocent, because this seventh White Fence is a beaut.

We knew what Presley could do, not just because his band Darker My Love released Tulip Frenzy’s #1 album in 2010, Alive As You Are.  And in 2012, Presley and Segall collaborated on Hair, which qualified as no less than that year’s 2nd best album.  And then, after we complained for what seems like ever that we wished Presley would get out of the bedroom and take his talents to a proper studio and record with a proper band, not to mention straighten up and comb his hair etc., he closed out the year with a live masterpiece — White Fence’s Live In San Francisco, which made our Top Ten List(c).  What a hootenanny that one is!  Maybe the best punk rock record of the last five years!  You could hear John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees chortling at the knobs, as he recorded Presley in all his barrre-chord glory.  And now we can hear the impact of his friend Ty Segall, who plays drums and produces what is already apparent as the best batch of White Fence cookies to come out of the oven.  Ever.

Whether he’s an introvert, or just likes the freedom of recording at home, the intervention by friends Dwyer and Segall to get Tim Presley to share with the world a better sounding version of the magic that takes place the moment he picks up a guitar is surely welcomed.  We are done comparing Presley to Kurtz, gone up the river.  On For The Recently Found Innocent he has brought his jangly guitar, his reverence for early Who and Kinks dynamics, his fondness for psychedelic chords, wispy vocals, the patchouli ambience… brought it all to a studio where Mr. Segall himself plays drums and marshals the Dolby hiss fighters to render this in damn near high fi!

If you think we’re enthusiastic about this, you’re right, and aside from dropping a big hint that you’ll hear more about this when it is time to lasso the best o’ 2014 into our little compendium, we should quit the writing about it and get back to nodding our heads to the beat. Yes, it has one.  Tim Presley has recorded a proper studio album and White Fence can get the Spotify airing and due it is so solemnly owed.

Thee Oh Sees “Drop” The Big One

Posted in Music, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 19, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Just before Christmas, as the staff at Tulip Frenzy World HQ were deep into the eggnog, word spread that Thee Oh Sees were going on “extended hiatus.”  Even allowing for the notion that for a band as prolific as John Dwyer’s SF outfit has been since 2006, that probably meant only a few months delay until the next ‘un, it cast quite a pall.  Everyone avoided the mistletoe.  By the time the lights were pulled on the Xmas tree, by the time the pizza crust was swept into the trash bag, everyone was ready to go home.

Thankfully, Dwyer’s just released Drop, and though the “band” is missing the delectable Brigid Dawson and that red-hot rhythm section of Petey Dammit! and Mike Shoun — the cohorts who helped propel Floating Coffin into the coveted #2 spot on the 2013 Tulip Frenzy Top 10 List (c) — this is a real Thee Oh Sees album. Which is to say it is a work of undiluted, 100 Proof rock’n’roll genius.  It will be the soundtrack to Tulip Frenzy’s Easter Egg Hunt tomorrow, let us tell you. The Easter Bunny will surely bounce his little cottontail off.

So Dwyer has moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, in search of lebensraum.  Oddly, Drop was recorded in Sacaramento, but rather than bring along his pals from the most recent incarnation of Thee Oh Sees, he holed up with producer Chris Woodhouse (who plays decent enough drums) and a gang that includes Mikal Cronin.  If you are expecting some vast departure from the sound that has so delighted us on the last two Thee Oh Sees records — the amazing Putrifiers II and of course Floating Coffin — you’ve probably misunderstood just what Dwyer has evolved into.  He could recruit the checkout clerks from a Vons Supermarket and quickly get them up to snuff, churning out melodic punk rock that spans the gamut from the Ty Segall Band to the Beatles.

We will no doubt report in more in the days ahead; overnight, this thing dropped into our iTunes library like a Faberge egg.  Let us just say that the polymath Mr. Dwyer, whose production chops helped actualize Tim Presley’s White Fence project into one of the best albums of 2013, whose Vinegar Mirror was such a cool photo project somehow we are staring at two of them, and whose last several albums with Thee Oh Sees — however they are configured — could singlehandedly restore our faith in the magical elixir that is real rock’n’roll… let us just say that it already is clear that Drop is the Big One, a career-worthy collection of songs that could be a desert-isle compilation of raw goodness.  Happy Ishtar.

%d bloggers like this: