A homonym is a word that shares spelling and pronunciation with another word but differs in meaning. That definition is often split in two; homographs have identical spelling while homophones share pronunciation. In all three cases, the words themselves do not mean the same thing. The Oh Sees have plowed through more name changes than most bands. The changes, however, are all variations on the same name. The spoken word never changes, only the spelling. One might think that such moves are purely cosmetic, essentially the creation of a homophone in which both words sound the same, mean the same thing, but are spelled differently. This is not the case. The Oh Sees changed their name today and announced a new album. The Oh Sees will once again be The OCS, John Dwyer’s original name for the group in the early 2000s. The significance of the name change can be found in the transition of sound on the new track, which is an unmistakable return to their original sound.
The new track, “Memory of a Cut Off Head,” brings something new by way of reverting back to the old. The harmonies and rhythmic acoustic background sound something like a cross between Buffalo Springfield’s general quality and Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote.” There is something headstrong about the rhythm, like it’s leaning forward, progressing along as if a person tripping over his or her feet who never actually falls, but is in perfect control. The new song brings to mind the band’s 2012 song, “If I Had a Reason,” which has a ghostly folk quality to it, back when they called themselves Thee Oh Sees.
It’s all confusing. Going back to track what song came out under which band title off of whichever album doesn’t get one very far. The important thing to note is that these musicians aren’t arbitrarily changing their name, they do it according to their sound. It isn’t obvious what the relationship between band name and sound quality is, although their recent change seems to make perfect sense: a return to their original name as they return to their original sound. Other than that, it seems like they enjoy playing around with the idea of a homonym. The album, Memory of a Cut Off Head, will be available later in the year.
Track Listing for Memory of a Cut Off Head:
01 Memory of a Cut Off Head
02 Cannibal Planet
03 The Baron Sleeps and Dreams
04 The Remote Viewer
05 On & On Corridor
06 Neighbor To None
07 The Fool
08 The Chopping Block
09 Time Tuner
10 Lift a Finger
Photography Credit: Mauricio Alvarado