Oh Sees have changed their name again, but their ferocious psych-rock is as reliable as ever | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Oh Sees have changed their name again, but their ferocious psych-rock is as reliable as ever


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It’s hard to believe John Dwyer has been leading different incarnations of his band Oh Sees (the name has undergone numerous tweaks) for two decades now, churning out top-notch psych-rock that’s giddy, sinister, and hooky by turns but always ferocious. For the group’s latest album, Orc (Castle Face), Dwyer adopts a nasal, whining vocal style that pushes the band’s glam flourishes toward the creepy, his tight wail piercing the fuzzed-out din like a laser beam. Once again fronting a twin-drum lineup, he enhances his needling guitar leads, acidic power chords, and high-pitched arpeggios with carefully deployed synthesizers, which provide pointillistic splatters on “Nite Expo” and warm, arcing lines on the sweetly melodic “Cooling Tower” (where the only singing is a series of wordless ah-ah-ahs). On the other side of the spectrum is the pure mountain-­man fury of “Animated Violence,” where Dwyer uncorks his most unhinged caterwauls over meaty riffs, rumbling bass swells, and skyward-bound licks given hyperactive propulsion by the drummers. The band also experiments with extended violin drones on the proggy “Keys to the Castle,” while the descending guitar figures on “Paranoise” alternate with chicken-scratch funk, buzzing synths, and analog squelches over a lean, Krautrock-worthy groove. Only an extended twin-­drummer feature on the closing track, “Raw Optics,” fails to deliver the goods—but it’s a maneuver that’d clearly work better live. Dwyer has already announced the next album, due in November; recorded under the name OCS, Memory of a Cut Off Head will head in a more baroque orchestral-pop direction. For tonight’s show, expect the usual high-energy fuzz.   v

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