An Odd Entrances does little to recapture any of what made its sequel so compelling.Castle Face Records, 2016
5.9 / 10
In the band’s second decade as an experimental travelling carnival, Thee Oh Sees’ live show has consistently improved upon itself in terms of providing their audience with a performance unlike any show they’ll see elsewhere, featuring a barrage of eerie guitar slides, DiMaggio-heeded yelps, and a recurring pair of jorts synonymous with the band’s Pacifically-climed youthful energy. And when I say “the band,” of course, I’m referring to the proprietor-of-jorts and master-of-ceremonies John Dwyer, almost certainly a character from the Cartoon Network and most definitely the luminous sphere around which a revolving troupe of spirited carneys obediently orbit.
If it wasn’t already evident that Thee Oh Sees were a Dwyer-centric affair, the group’s recent rebranding as a three-piece has minimized the dilution of Dwyerism, which offensively perpetuates the patriarchal cliché of female submissiveness as the ravished audience helplessly places hands over heads, still reeling in a post-coital daze instigated by the intense passion of the dominant, nonchalant male, figurative cigarette dangling from lip. To be within earshot of Dwyer’s cacophonous coos is to bring your deepest audio-induced fantasies to indefatigable life, eliciting a literary high – a Kafka high – courtesy of a man who inexplicably does not voice an evil insect on an animated television program for adults.
That said, it comes as a bit of a surprise when their semi-annual offering of recorded rituals doesn’t live up to the impassioned one-night-stand generously gifted in the form of their live show. As could be surmised by the press release’s disclaimer of its being a “morning” album, An Odd Entrances – the band’s fourth studio album released since they went on indefinite hiatus in 2014, and the preceding yin to August’s A Weird Exits’ yang – does little to replicate the abrasive aura perfected on unofficial mantras “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster” and “I Was Denied,” the former a staple of their live show, the latter merely a watermark for the extent to which Thee Oh Sees can effectively produce catchy – albeit slimy – pop songs.
While Entrances opens with the same spooky guitar slides that traditionally anticipate impending shreds in the Dwyer universe, and closes with free jazz guitar experimentation reviving the spirit of Sonny Sharrock, much of what’s in between is ambling jams neither complementary – as was the case of their transitional piece Drop to the rest of their catalogue – nor supplementary – as would be expected of an album composed mostly of tracks named in relation to another album. Not only does the Odd Entrances/Weird Exits gimmick recall the Star Wars franchise in its reverse-chronological output, but also in its inability to recapture any of what made the original so compelling.
Listening to An Odd Entrances doesn’t feel dissimilar to watching a beloved band play an unfamiliar set – sure, it may sound fine, but you came to the show to hear music you know. What’s always kept Dwyer worlds apart from his closest contemporaries is his ability to maintain a distinctive personality when you peel away the grimey fuzz, and more so, the steady development of this personality. Entrances does little to further Thee Oh Sees persona, and for the first time presents the possibility of the normalization of retracing steps following the redundant Drop.