There’s no denying the breathe of Thee Oh Sees’ work is astounding, but as is the case with many bands who tour year-round and record multiple releases a year along the way, it’s easy to lose sight of where the band is at creatively. From a fan’s perspective, it’s impossible to cultivate a feel for just what an album or EP will sound like, even though you may have heard three albums in the past sixteen months from an artist. There’s so much content that it eventually all sounds like white noise from the media leading up to the release. Which is exactly the case with Carrion Crawler/The Dream.
But then you sit down with the record, tired as you may be of the San Francisco band’s relentless release schedule, and find out just exactly what you’ve been willfully ignoring. I’ve been a fan of Thee Oh Sees for quite some time, but with the release of Castlemania earlier this year, a record that was essentially average, I started to tune out all coverage of Carrion Crawler/The Dream. Between seeing the band twice this year, listening to past albums and collecting a few rare cassettes along the way, I had my fill of everything Thee Oh Sees. Then I finally got to “Chem-Farmer,” and this new album started to make sense. The instrumental track shed light on what Thee Oh Sees were trying to accomplish here, as the first three tracks are rather slow going. “Chem-Farmer” is simple in its execution; a banging drum kit rambles through the entire track to the same pattern as a screeching guitar and keyboard, layered together, bounce in and out of the scene. While it’s maybe not the best track on the album, it’s the best example of what emotion Thee Oh Sees are trying to capture. The somewhat long-winded but foot-stomping, head-nodding psych rock of “Chem-Farmer” is a recorded version of what the band sounds like on stage.
Many of the tracks on Carrion Crawler/The Dream capture that rambling but precise nature of The Oh Sees’ live energy. “Robber Barons” is another example of this structure; a track that drifts in the breeze as it carries on for five minutes. It’s a fine tune, but it’s not the high speed, garage-style music we’ve all grown accustomed to hearing from the band. Carrion Crawler/The Dream certainly has those moments of bursting energy though, with “Wrong Idea” and “Opposition (With Maracas),” but each track is linked to the one after it so seamlessly that it remains almost unnoticeable. This is another example of why the album sounds so similar to their live act; there’s an energy built up at the beginning of the album which eventually erupts and carries throughout the rest of the album.
The album truly hits its stride on “The Dream,” a landmark track for this already prolific band. In its nearly seven minutes, the track shifts from classic rock inspiration to avant-psych, while never losing itself along the way. “The Dream” sounds spontaneous, as if each band member is playing off one another in the studio, seizing an amazing piece of modern rock ‘n roll. And that’s how I feel about the most of Carrion Crawler/The-Dream. The album takes a while to get going and figure out what it wants to do, but diving into Thee Oh Sees’ world reveals one of their better efforts yet. Sadly, however, the album seems destined to be underappreciated and unnoticed. At any rate, you’re bound to have something new in four months anyway.