Thee Oh Sees
Haight-Ashbury and Notting Hill’s Portobello Road aren’t so many worlds apart when you consider their bohemian pasts and the iconic record stores that still reside there. In fact Portobello Road’s Rough Trade was modeled on San Fran’s alternative epicenter City Lights Bookstore, a fitting first home for the The Buzzcocks, The Smiths and The Libertines.
Thee Oh Sees’ latest work, Floating Coffin, offers another nod between the two cities. From the start, the velocity of the guitars sends you tumbling into London in the mid 2000s and frontman John Dwyer’s shouting vocals sound like someone turned the reverb up on one of Britain’s original punk outfits. As you hit track two, Toe Cutter – Thumbs Buster, a laid back bass line sets an unmistakably Californian feel, sauntering between warm, clean bass and fuzzy overdriven guitars, marrying classic Cali warmth and the lo fi exploration typical of the first US state to legalise marijuana. Dwyer described the album as heavier and darker than their previous work, and it’s evident as tracks carry the sinister merriment of a carnival after dark or the climax of a Tarantino film. This shadow meets its sunny counterpart in Maze Fancier where bright guitars and jubilant tambourines are just a lead line away from a discordant darker side. The record moves at a frenetic pace, as even relaxed tracks such as No Spell carry you ever onwards. Final track Minotaur stands alone as it dawdles along, with Dwyers talk-singing and the appearance of simmering strings feeling rather Sergeant Pepper-esque. From start to finish, Floating Coffin offers listeners a dramatic exploration of two cities and two moods, transporting you to a place where they live in synergy.
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