“Thee Oh Sees are dead. Long live Oh Sees.”
So begins the announcement for Orc, the new album from garage-rock denizens Oh Sees. The prolific California band, led by singer/songwriter/guitarist John Dwyer, is on the cusp of releasing its 19th album in 20 years, and we have it streaming here a week ahead of time.
Oh Sees have variously been known throughout the band's history as Orinoka Crash Suite, OCS, Orange County Sound, the Ohsees and, most recently, Thee Oh Sees. Along with the relatively minor change in name, this time around the lineup includes Dwyer on vocals and guitar, Tim Hellman on bass, and the team of Dan Rincon and newcomer Paul Quattrone on the band's double drums.
Orc follows a pair of 2016 releases — A Weird Exits and An Odd Entrances — as well as Bunker Funk, Dwyer’s 2017 LP as his side project Damaged Bug.
While the band is mostly known for being great live, its bandmates' furious onstage prowess is certainly reflected in these songs. Tight and unrelenting, Orc is clearly the product of a road-hardened act. Oh Sees' driving energy never loses momentum over the course of 10 songs — you can almost feel the sweat.
As per usual, Dwyer manages to write lyrics here that are both cryptic and also agressively evocative. This is perhaps best illustrated by the song "Animated Violence," which melds together the band's signature scorching guitar solos, driving double drums and the lyrics: “Old is warrior, drink the weapon/ I am warrior, crush your head in.”
It's an album that feels like it's preparing you for some kind of battle — maybe against an orc.