Hold on to your heads kids, it’s about to get wild
Get ready for the non-stop, head-spinning thrill ride that is Osees’ newest album, Protean Threat. This record truly is not for the faint of heart. From the very beginning, the listener is pummeled with punkish, art-rock energy that might just make the heart skip a beat. If the band name sounds familiar, it most likely is, as Osees have gone through quite a few band name changes over the years (generally just minor spelling edits). At the band’s creation, they were known as OCS, and released their first album back in 2003.
As the years went on, and as the group broke new ground with every album, the name continued to change as well. It was The Ohsees back in 2006, The Oh Sees in 2007 and Thee Oh Sees in 2008, the name under which they’ve released 12 of their over 20 albums. There have also been quite a few member changes over the years; the current iteration of this ever-changing musical project is made up of current members John Dwyer, a founder of the band back in 1997, Tim Hellman, Dan Rincon, Paul Quattrone and finally Tomas Dolas.
For their most recent release, the group has focused on powerful and experimental punk, with some additional surprise genre change-ups thrown in throughout. The first track off the album, “Scramble Suit II,” slams listeners with a truly overpowering introduction that makes the heart race and pupils dilate. This is the song to play in a mid-2000’s action movie chase scene, but because Osees love to surprise, the song dives in to ’70s funk about halfway through. Before one can take a breath, the pace picks back up and takes people for a completely different ride once more.
The lead single of the record, “If I Had My Way,” paints a completely different picture than some of the other tracks. It leaves behind that super fast thrashy punk and welcomes the listener into a more luscious and super groovy old school funk sound. With the pace still fast and the ambiance of a distinct psychedelic funk vibe, it is the perfect soundtrack to an Ocean’s Eleven style daydream about the perfect bank heist.
Tracks like “Toadstool” seem to live in a world all their own. The song oscillates between chill psychedelic funk, a tasty blues tone and an almost art-pop style. It’s a beautiful blend of both smooth and creamy vocals on one hand, and a busted speaker type distortion on the other. Even at this point in the project, the band still has plenty left in the tank, and opts to pick up the pace once more.
“Dreary Nonsense” plays with some similar aspects of the psycho-funk sound, but also makes use of fast drums and Clash-esque punk vocals. Parts of the instrumentation also stereo pan from ear to ear in this song, resulting in a wild, head-spinning sensation.
Osees love to play with push and pull; they’ll shoot through a hard and fast passage, then come to abrupt stops and slow everything down once, like a rock rollercoaster. For another example, “Red Study,” which is like a drug-induced trip in a field of tie-dye, sits shoulder to shoulder with the slowest track on the record, “Said the Shovel.” Both songs still manage to provide exciting moments that are guaranteed to make a strong impression.
Protean Threat truly is a genre all its own. With swift changes between thrashing punk rock, groovy funk and psychedelia, each song consistently creates soundscapes that are genuinely difficult to pin down. Those with heart conditions may need to consider consulting a doctor before consuming this rollercoaster of an album.