Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Shawn Biggs
Johnny Dwyer, the lead singer of the Bay Area psych/garage rock outfit Thee Oh Sees, has a naturally gifted voice for sputtering and spattering, reverb-clogged and fuzzed rock and roll music. It's so suited for the style, in fact, that we will from here on out, just refer to it as The Voice, with two instances of capitalization and insisting that it is a proper name. He has a sharp and high-pitched whine at times that just sounds like a young misfit trying to find his place in the world, thrashing around in its own skin and outsider world until something finally touches down. It sounds as if its echoing back to us from the 1960s, out of those cheap microphones, the voice of a man whose time is spent slicking back his pompadour, who's into all of that British Invasion stuff, who's trolling around the Haight-Ashbury corridor looking for heroes, who's reading subversive novels by all of the brilliant, druggie fiction writers at the time and who's still been hanging out at the hamburger stands at night, prowling the loop for pretty girls to try and romance. Thee Oh Sees are a band that incorporates all of the subtle references to rebellious, youthful rock and roll from generations back, boy-girl harmonies a la the Mamas and the Papas, as well as a knack for the ringing tunefulness of Buddy Holly - all of it touched with golden tones and then mussed up enough to not be too damned clear and straight-arrow. It's an angular and frazzled stab at meeting all of the different corners of early days rock and roll music - when it was called by adults and kids, sort of with a sneer and sort of with an undeniable pride, "rock 'n roll music" - together into some wildly uninhibited spin-out. Dwyer inspires paranoia with his skuzzy vocals and at times makes you want to spit and others makes you want to grab a partner around the waist and just twirl around and around, in your socks, on a wooden dance floor. "Go Meet The Seed" is one of those dance on the wooden floor numbers and "Destroyed Fortress Reappears" is one of those spitting numbers that just makes you lower the tops of your eyelids and begin to get suspicious of everything, even that which you think you're familiar and friendly with. It doesn't really matter which mood Thee Oh Sees twist you into, as it all moves and it all gets the pores working overtime, soaking our clothing with dread and joy.
Thee Oh Sees MySpace Page
In The Red Records