Published Sep 15, 2020In an era of rampant hyperbole and fake news, there's one singular truth; John Dwyer has never made a bad album under his Thee Oh Sees variations. After a trio of prog influenced, nearly-metal releases as Oh Sees, the current lineup have eased back into their psychedelic garage rock sounds, while slightly changing their name to Osees. Twenty-three LPs in, the San Francisco quintet roll out their tried-and-true blueprint and scribble some minor adjustments throughout this 13-track, 39-minute album.
Tightening two-thirds of the album's tracks up to wham-bam two-minute runtimes, Dwyer and company somehow make Protean Threat sound fresh and inventive. While a few of the record's tracks draw from Dwyer's recent musical endeavours, including the warped synth sound of his long-running Damaged Bug project (the brief instrumental "Wing Ruin") and his 2020 jazz supergroup Bent Arcana (the jammy five-minute standout "Said the Shovel"), much of Protean Threat nonetheless works off of the energy and familiarity of Osees' guitar riffs and pedal racks. The 2018 addition of second drummer Tom Dolas has allowed tracks like fuzzed-out opener "Scramble Suit II" and synth/guitar hybrid "Mizmuth" to come off much noisier and more chaotic than anything they've done throughout their garage rock incarnations.
But once the listener is able to cut through the song effects, accessories and accoutrements (which really add to tracks like "Dreary Nonsense" and "Toadstool"), its clear that Osees still know how to to give the fans what they want, as guitar chugger "If I Had My Way" and hyper-groover "Gong of Catastrophe" expertly demonstrate. Even though Protean Threat proves to be an adventurous, quirky and downright strange album at times, Osees manage keep the whole thing sonically grounded and consumable, all while keeping Dwyer's winning streak impossibly alive. (Castle Face)