Full disclosure, I have never seen Thee Oh Sees live. With most bands that doesn’t necessarily matter. Hell, for every band that’s good live, there’s ten that suck. But with Thee Oh Sees, experiencing their dirty, hyper psych/garage live feels a crucial piece in their puzzle. The San Francisco quartet’s newest release, Warm Slime, only further serves to convince me that the band’s live dimension is nothing short of epic and necessary, kicking off with the album’s title track, 13-and-a-half minutes of hypnotic garage grooves, led by a single line of Brigid Dawson’s vocals that waft in and out amongst waves of gritty guitar and syncopated shouts.
Most bands would choose to reserve a track as lengthy and downright epic as “Warm Slime” for the closer. But Thee Oh Sees have never been a band up for anything expected, working under four previous monikers and constantly surprising fans by releasing a staggering amount of material (ten releases across multiple labels in 2009). And yet I can’t honestly say I’m glad “Warm Slime” breaks the rules and serves as opener. It is so successful at overshadowing the remaining six tracks that it needs to be separated completely from the album and listened to as its own mini-work.
Once you’ve finally processed, and pushed aside “Warm Slime”, you’ll find upbeat, jangly hooks (“I Was Denied”), a blues-tinged military march (“Everything Went Black”) and reverb-mutilated punk (“Mega-Feast”). But it’s Warm Slime‘s mid-point, “Castiastic Tackle” that is the album’s unsung star, blending surf-rock with fiery guitar and John Dwyer’s impassioned, unintelligible vocal howls. It showcases exactly what Thee Oh Sees have done so well across their career, taking the influence of a genre past and injecting it with frenzy and then covering it with a layer of crud.
Warm Slime harkens to the band’s earlier works and is certainly an ambitious album, the second of god only knows how many 2010 releases we’ll get from Thee Oh Sees, but a work that is truly better suited towards vinyl listening, where the immense title track is allowed to exist exactly as it belongs, commanding the entire A-side.