For more than a decade, John Dwyer and Thee Oh Sees catered to a specific niche: the fertile crescent where rowdy garage punk, classic ’60s pop, and hard-drugs psychedelia intersect. Those boundaries allowed Dwyer a lot of room to explore with some exciting results, most notably 2008’s The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending A Night In and last year’s Castlemania.
With Putrifiers II—whose title track is a sequel of sorts to a song Dwyer recorded with Yikes! six years ago—it’s starting to become clear that there’s only so much room left in that niche, and with each successive Oh Sees album, it gets a little more cramped. As Thee Oh Sees’ sixth full-length in three years, Putrifiers II is more of a victim of an over-saturating output than a difficult listen. It’s just too easy for casual listeners to predict where Dwyer is headed. Dwyer, who works alone in the studio on this release, cranks the gain on the guitars and bass in “Wax Face,” turning up the psychedelia on simple Troggs-like garage pop. “So Nice” and “Lupine Dominus” slightly tweak the acid-to-hooks ratio for a more inviting and a more spaced-out sound, respectively. The album’s title track is its most interesting moment, but only because Dwyer strays from the formula for a plodding, stoned number that is as much indebted to Black Sabbath as The Zombies.
With the exception of “Putrifiers II” and the ambient “Cloud #1,” Dwyer is largely content to stick with Thee Oh Sees’ game plan—namely to fuck with the formula, but only so much as to make very few significant changes. Following his manic outpouring of new songs in recent years, his experiments seem less about evolution and progress, and more about exploring every permutation of his influences that are mathematically available to him. While that still makes for some decent songs, it’s not nearly as exhilarating now that Thee Oh Sees’ mix ’n’ match methodology is so plainly evident to all but the most casual listeners.