It’s hard to believe Mutilator Defeated At Last is the 14th album by San Francisco indie legends Thee Oh Sees. Founded by John Dwyer in 1997, the current TOS line up includes Dwyer, Tim Hellman, Nick Murray, Chris Woodhouse, and Brigid Dawson. The occasional turnover in membership has a lot to do the band’s constant activity, as the psychedelic, experimental, garage-rock and sometimes punk band has been known to churn out two albums within a span of only 6 months and at the very least once a year.
With the band consistently producing one record every year, we’ve all come to love and expect to hear that trademark fuzziness and psychedelia. Is their new album any different? We Take a Listen to their newest effort, Mutilator Defeated At Last and share our First Impressions. If you want to stream the album now, it is streaming at Pitchfork. The album is out May 18th and can be purchased at Castle Face Records.
Is there a band or artist that makes better psychedelic than Thee Oh Sees? The only other comparables they may have are Ty Segall, Pond, and Tame Impala. Thee Oh Sees, however, have been spinning psych-rock for a couple of decades, creating the foundation for the Pacific brand of psychedelia. Mutilator Defeated At Last, though, is a bit different from their previous 13 albums. It’s still like a kaleidoscope of sound and filled with multiple layers, but the music is at times denser and even slightly darker, such as on “Sticky Hulks”. They go instrumental melodic on “Holy Smoke”, which is completely unexpected and trips you up. But there are tracks that recall both early TOS and mid-career TOS, like the mind-blowing goodie “Rogue Planet” and the space jam on the opener “Web”, which is prototypical TOS with the stuttering vocals of Dwyer, the twinging of the guitar strings, and the reverb – ahhh, the reverb. TOS also head into almost a hardcore sound on “Withered Hand”, which is pretty awesome. “Poor Queen” is almost proggy, Rush-like. Another surprising turn, but a successful one. Then the band goes Ty Segall on us, where the teacher is the pupil on the rocking “Turned Out Light”.
After 18 years recording music and releasing their sixth album in the past five years, you would think that TOS would stick to what they know best. Instead, they break out some new tricks and borrow some from their friends. The result is a pretty fantastic album. And like every TOS album, it is rip-roaring fun.
These days there are several universal truths; death, taxes and a new Thee Oh Sees album every few months. I love the new era of garage rock. Ty Segall, The Men, and Thee Oh Sees have been fantastic and have helped keep raw energetic guitar rock alive in a sea of synths and hifi productions. My only complaint is they continue to put out solid album after solid album but never in my mind a pure classic Mutilator Defeated At Last is no exception, it is another very good garage rock album. I wonder if a little more time in the studio could have produced a truly great album.
That is a minor complaint. I am still happy to have more spacey rocking jams by TOS. Stand out tracks include “Rogue Planet” and “Web”. I really love the instrumental track “Holy Smoke” although it kind of sticks out with some of the darker rockers. Overall, this is another very good album from a band that has been cranking them out for almost two decades.
After hearing the first two singles “Web” and “Withered Hand”, I had a feeling this album was going to be pretty darn good. The first two public tracks are both awesome and different yet still has that overall TOS stamp which makes the diversity of Mutilator Defeated At Last work.
My only honest critique of this album is I would have loved 1 or 2 more tracks, especially with the addition of the instrumental “Holy Smoke” even though I love it and will add it to my commuter playlist, it was the only track that seemed a tad bit out of place along with the other 8 songs.
“Turned Out Light” is one of my favorite tracks on the album and hearing “Lupine Ossuary” going into complete psych garage mode which impressed me with the intricate guitar work throughout. The Doors-like “Sticky Hulks” mesmerizes with Dwyer’s vocals sweetly maneuvering throughout the heavy guitar and key laden track.
“Rogue Planet” is completely heart poundingly good with a bit of punk influences added into the mix. The closer “Palace Doctor” is a harmonious track with Dwyer’s signature vocals in the forefront of their psych garage background, but with just the right amount of reverb.
Mutilator Defeated At Last is almost the perfect mix of everything that embodies TOS’ signature sound but continues to expand on their creativity a bit further which should satisfy longtime Thee Oh Sees fans and reel in quite a few new ones, especially if they are fans of the recently successful Tame Impala. Big Thumbs Up for me. Can’t wait to catch them live.
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