by Julie Smitka (@julieksmitka)
John Dwyer is no less than prolific. Two decades and seven name changes later, Oh Sees (formerly Thee Oh Sees) release Memory of a Cut Off Head under original moniker OCS. For those who like numbers: their 20th album marks the 100th title from Dwyer’s own Castle Face Records and his third album of 2017 including March’s Bunker Funk (under Damaged Bug) and August’s Orc.
Fittingly, Memory revisits the project’s gentler roots, with more than a tinge of sentimentality. Patrick Mullins returns to the band on singing saw. Heather Lockie and Mikal Cronin contribute string and horn arrangements, respectively. Brigid Dawson’s vocals continue to guide and ground Dwyer’s restive yet characteristic tendencies. Her voice meets Dwyer’s briefly enough to harmonize before parting ways, as if mirroring the fleeting nature of memory in Dwyer’s often sporadic pacing. Memory may be her most prominent contribution to the project yet.
Memory reintroduces a quieter form of Oh Sees who have opted for acoustic instruments and prioritized subtle psych-pop in place of their recent garage-rock psychedelia. But don’t be fooled; the opening title track’s tongue-in-cheek wit are the epitome of OCS lyrics: “Oh, what a day, I lost my body / A feast for beast and all mankind / I am prescription filled for your mind.” Harpsichord on “The Remote Viewer,” melding textures on “On and On Corridor,” and electric bagpipes on “Time Tuner” show the band aren’t afraid to continue experimenting, even when that much experimentation on one 45-minute album risks slipping through the cracks.