Since first emerging in the musical underground in the late ‘90s, Thee Oh Sees brainchild John Dwyer has never been satisfied to rest on his considerable creative laurels, jumping from project to project (starting with noise rock duo Pink & Brown and aside from Thee Oh Sees probably best known for distortion-laden garage revivalists Coachwhips). But now offering Thee Oh Sees’ eighth full-length in five years, Carrion Crawler/The Dream -- just five months past the release of its predecessor, Castlemania -- Dwyer seems to have hit a sweet spot, slowly evolving the band rather than abandoning it. The two-albums-in-one-year approach served the band well in 2009, as they offered both the shambling, acoustic-focused Dog Poison and chaos-in-control Help that year, and whether by design or coincidence, a similar trajectory emerged in 2011. Castlemania was the poppiest and most melodic we’d heard Thee Oh Sees yet, but Carrion Crawler/The Dream completely flips the script, capturing the range, energy, and freedom of their notoriously raging live performances in a way none of their previous records have. Recorded in June around the time of Castlemania’s release, this could be attributed to the addition of Lars Finberg (the Intelligence), who joined the band on tour as second drummer and makes his recorded debut on this release. And while Castlemania begged speakers to bubble over with eccentric effervescence, the assault of driving double-drum rhythms and scuzzy bass riffs on freakouts “Contraption/Soul Desert” and semi-eponymous “The Dream” threaten to blow them clean out. Putting some hands back on the controls, the looser “Robber Barons” works like a stomp-stoner hybrid, tripping and crunching its way through a murky groove, while instrumental “Chem-Farmer” mostly stays in the pocket of a Kraut-y drone, making room for Brigid Dawson’s stormy keyboard flourishes and Dwyer’s fiery guitar exclamations. For sounds more familiar to the band’s past works, the off-the-rails bounce of “Crushed Glass” and graveyard dirge of “Crack in Your Eye” recall Help’s “Meat Step Lively” and The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In’s “Maria Stacks,” respectively. Hearing so many different sounds on Carrion Crawler/The Dream, it comes as no surprise that it was originally intended to be released as two EPs, but thanks to the band’s versatility the real surprise is how cohesively the songs work as one record. Diehards and newbies alike will revel in its weird, wild well-roundedness.
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AllMusic Review by Chrysta Cherrie