John Dwyer seems like a person who gets bored quickly. His band, in its 20 years of age, has changed their sound countless times. Originally a lo-fi garage rock band called OCS, Dwyer has moved the band into noise rock, freak folk, psychedelic rock, desert rock, progressive rock, and thrash metal over the course of 20 years and around 25 albums. He’s even changed the band’s name many times as well. Over the past 15 years, the band has gone by The Ohsees, The Oh Sees, Thee Oh Sees, and Oh Sees. And for their latest album, Protean Threat, they have become Osees.
You sort of always know what to expect when you put on an Osees record. The band has a core sound that is consistent across most of their discography, but they venture away from it into new territories in every album. Ever since 2016’s A Weird Exits, they’ve been exploring using odd guitar tones, and spacey, weird-sounding effects, as well as krautrock in the vein of Can (in particular on their 2018 album Smote Reverser). Protean Threat goes somewhat back to their roots of fast, thrashy garage rock, but it still keeps the psychedelic rock and strange noises. It starts with “Scramble Suit II”, kicking things off at a blistering pace. This song has a typical Osees sound, with noisey punk guitar riffs at some times, and bright, quirky guitars and electronic effects at others, all on top of a driving drum beat, played by two drummers.
Image: Osees-Levitation Sessions
The band’s weirdness really comes out in the songs “Toadstool”, “Wing Run”, “Red Study”, and “Mizmuth”. “Toadstool” slows down the pace for a bit, with more of a relaxed vibe than the rest of the album. “Wing Run” is a short instrumental song, with a noodling synth going for almost the entire track. The krautrock-influenced ”Said the Shovel” is one of my favorite songs from the album, calling back to the sound of Smote Reverser.
I really liked Protean Threat, and yet it still probably doesn’t get in my top 10 Osees albums. But that’s more of a sign of how great the rest of their catalog is, and the fact that they have been releasing more than one album per year since at least the mid-2000s. In fact, by the time I finished writing this review, they put out a live album, as well as another full-length, Metamorphosed. On Protean Threat, there aren’t really any stand out songs that I could pick as my favorite, but the whole album is consistently enjoyable. Existing fans of Osees and other similar bands would probably love it, but for someone new to the band, they definitely have stronger work that is a better place to start.