The album cover of Thee Oh Sees 18th studio album, An Odd Entrance, shows a close-up image of an insect crawling out of an ear. This image represents a lot of the band’s work: psychedelic earworms.
Although the vocals on most of Thee Oh Sees’ records are blown out, their trademark guitar riffs are extremely catchy and stay in your head for days. This is particularly true on their latest album, a companion to A Weird Exits, which was released in August of this year.
An Odd Entrance is a gentler counterpart to its heavy-hitting predecessor, echoing the band’s more psychedelic material from the early 2000s. The record showcases their versatility as they wander creatively through rhythmic and mesmerizing compositions. The album is only six tracks long and three of them are instrumentals, but it still clocks in at 30 minutes and is packed full of inventive new material.
The album opener “You Will Find It Here” begins with a drawn out intro overflowing with skittering drums and trembling guitar. Slowly, an electronic keyboard comes in, frontman John Dwyer’s guitar begins to show a little more freedom and the song begins to build. The band does a great job of using classic prog rock keyboard sounds without ripping off the genre by incorporating their iconic fuzzy guitars.
Thee Oh Sees then transition into the most melodic and catchy song on the album: “The Poem.” Free of drums, it features strings and harmonious guitar and brings Dwyer’s vocals to the forefront, a rarity for the band. The song is a beautiful ballad and feels like a track off of Magical Mystery Tour or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, two of The Beatles more psychedelic albums.
Although the album is not lyrically dense, the song “At the End, On the Stairs” features spooky and evocative lyrics. In a laid back cadence, Dwyer sings, “Gritting teeth and hanging hair, a face over aught with fear. Clutching guts and dripping hand, he was tragically alone.” While the lyrical tone of this song is dark, the instrumentals are sonically lush. The jangly guitars on the track remind listeners how influential Thee Oh Sees have been on indie rock bands like Parquet Courts and Preoccupations.
The album concludes with “Nervous Tech (Nah John),” an eight-minute improvisational instrumental track that is an appropriate climax to the record. The faint sound of bells in the background is reminiscent of free and avant-garde jazz and if Dwyer’s guitar was replaced with a saxophone, the song could easily pass as a late John Coltrane or Pharaoh Sanders composition.
Thee Oh Sees have been a stalwart in garage rock for almost 20 years and have maintained their reputation by releasing two great records this year. The Thee Oh Sees’ latest album should not be dismissed as a mere collection of B-sides from A Weird Exit.
For die-hard fans of the band, it provides plenty of material to dig into. At the same time, this record is a great starting point for new listeners due to its more accessible psychedelic nature. While A Weird Exits may have melted faces and left listeners out of breath, An Odd Entrance inspires them to stare into the sky, face the abyss and bliss out.