This week, we’re taking a look at the Left Coast invasion scheduled to hit Memphis at the end of the month. First up: Bay Area greats Thee Oh Sees, returning after both a captivating performance at Gonerfest V and a summer 2009 opening slot on the road with Jay Reatard (who pressed a split seven-inch with the group on his own Shattered Records label).
On Friday, Sept. 24, Thee Oh Sees perform at the Hi-Tone Cafe during Gonerfest VI.
While Castle Face Records co-founder John Dwyer (Coachwhips, Pink and Brown) originally started Thee Oh Sees as a home recording project, he quickly recruited Brigid Dawson, Mike Shoun and Pete Dammit for the cause, forming one of the most unique sounding, folk-meets-art damage, with plenty of reverb thrown in, bands on the contemporary garage rock scene.
Despite comparisons to pioneers like the Phantom Surfers and the Wipers, Thee Oh Sees have carved their own niche with unforgettable ditties like “Meat Step Lively” and “Peanut Butter Oven,” heard on the full-length Help, released on In the Red Records earlier this year.
The SF Weekly describes it thusly:
Coiled at the center of Help are Dwyer’s vocals with Brigid Dawson. His words topple out in a cartoonish fashion. From his nasally, hiccupped outbursts to his feathery falsetto howls, he remains a trickster front man. In Pixies terms, a band evoked throughout Help, Dawson is the Kim Deal to Dwyer’s squirrelly Black Francis — her harmonies possessing a cotton candy sweetness with a rock candy edge. The band’s powerful rhythm engine — drummer Mike Shoun and bassist Petey Dammit — offers indefatigable momentum, even when the songs get nearly sludgy on “The Coconut” and “Maria Stacks.” On standout rave-ups “I Can’t Get No” and “Ruby Go Home,” Shoun and Dammit break into quick trots, and the latter song becomes a particularly catchy squatter of a tune that refuses to budge once it moves into your memory. “Rainbow” is driven by simplicity — Dwyer’s quick guitar windups, which explode with the rest of the band on the chorus. If you’re looking for something a little more stoned, “Destroyed Fortress Reappers” puts the singer on delay, his words swimming in echo. Overall, Help is a dissonant listen — awash in lo-fi, warts-and-all textures while grabbing listeners with unusual pop hooks.
Here’s footage of Thee Oh Sees performing at Gonerfest V: