There’s a benefit to being a prolific band—that is, besides having more shit for sale on the merch table. Pumping out a feverish stream of recorded material means there’s less time to sit around stroking one’s chin and contemplating the profundity of what’s being created. Crap it out, slap a sticker on it, and move on. That’s always been Thee Oh Sees’ philosophy. Mixing art-punk, psychedelia, and wiry garage rock, John Dwyer and his spastic outfit have delivered their second full-length of 2011, Carrion Crawler/The Dream. The title seems to imply that Dwyer couldn’t sit still long enough to settle on a single name. The music is equally scattered, slapdash, and frantic. It’s also brilliant.
It would make sense for Carrion to pick up where its predecessor, Castlemania, left off. Of course, it doesn’t. Castlemania’s lysergic, singsong folkiness has given way to something weirder: lysergic, singsong jazziness. Opener “Carrion Crawler” wobbles like Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Orbit” in a decaying orbit around squiggly, Albert Ayler-esque horns. There’s reverb on the reverb in the lush, lurching “Robber Barons,” but the overused effect is squeezed for every last ounce of demented atmosphere. Moments of relative clarity—like blunt, skeletal drug-punk of “Chem-Farmer” and the jabbering belligerence of “The Dream”—only serve to underscore Dwyer’s primal, rock ’n’ roll shamanism. Predictably unpredictable, Carrion Crawler/The Dream sees Thee Oh Sees stagger erratically, ecstatically forward, stopping just long enough to leave another pungent mark on its territory.