[sic] Magazine

Oh Sees – Face Stabber

It’s been a whole year since the last (Thee) Oh Sees record, Smote Reverser, so John Dwyer has doubled down for his exquisitely titled new LP, Face Stabber, a split platter lasting 120 bloated minutes that not only continues the band’s hot run of cover artwork, so too their new-found heavy-funk grooves and proggy abandon. Somewhere in the region of Dwyer’s twentieth album under similarly named guises, his usual demented psych, garage-fuzz and cosmic punk influences still hold sway too and consequently Face Stabber is a record more in line with, say, Orc than it is with, for example, the Brigid Dawson-dominated psych-folk meanderings of Memory Of A Cut Off Head.

Accordingly, the title-track, one of a series of instrumentals, is a predictably heavy workout for the guitars, pedals and double-drum set-up, these same wordless solos scrawled over by squelchy garage repeats and space-rock distortion elsewhere. And, despite encompassing motifs from most of the Dwyer discography, straight percussive kosmiche is very much the order of the day throughout, heady tumbles of interstellar FX and jazzy brass parts frequently jammed out to wildly rhythmic proportions.

Face Stabber’s 14 tracks are nevertheless dominated by their two looongest statements, “Scutum & Scorpius” and “Henchlock”, the former a synthy exploration that goes to town on oscillators, MIDI strings and fuzz, the latter full of liquid wah, needling guitar and more of that louche brass. A recurrent problem with Dwyer’s most excessive numbers though is that they don’t do enough to keep the attention after grabbing it, revelling instead in making the same point over and over and these two indifferent missives are no different in this regard despite “Henchlock” fading to soothing chimes and background radiation, its weird spoken-word finale spouting nonsense about wanting cups of tea in a manner perhaps more befitting of someone like The Flaming Lips.

More than earning their keep though come the throwaway morsels in between. The opener’s daft rhythm is built on a dog’s wheezy squeezy-toy and Dwyer takes the opportunity to overload it with some dirty, Lux Interior-inspired vocal manipulation. In turn, “Snickersee” is one of those Oh Sees’ tracks where the intensity drops to let him sneer some dystopian polemics over fiery licks. At the other end of the vocal spectrum comes “Psy-Ops Dispatch”, Dwyer’s wan falsetto smearing itself all over the bouncing waveform, “Heartworm” belatedly the ferocious garage-punk face-stabber the album’s title demanded. Something for everyone and served in generous helpings, Face Stabber’s an album that’ll stick to your ribs, but nonetheless have you reaching for seconds.

Best track: “Psy-Ops Dispatch”

~Face Stabber is released 16th August 2019 via Castle Face.~