On their 400th album in the last two years, one might assume that the Oh Sees might be running out of steam. Maybe they would be out of ideas, lacking fire or retreading ground previously trod to the point of being worn out. Nope, none of that. Orc is another classic Oh Sees album that shows no signs of wear and tear anyplace in the operation. About half the record is made up of songs that are a white-hot blast of blown-out guitars, dual drummers bashing the living snot out of their kits, a bassist trying to hold it all together in the middle of a hurricane, and John Dwyer yelping like he just put his hand down on a hot stove. The other half is split between thudding heavy metal that comes complete with proggy organ breakdowns ("Animated Violence"), creepy art rock that showcases Dwyer's spookiest vocals ("Jettison"), tracks that impinge on the synth rock of Dwyer's Damaged Bug alter ego ("Paranoise"), and two songs that feature long codas with violin ("Keys to the Castle") and drum ("Raw Optics") solos. Through it all, Dwyer and crew ride the dynamic shifts between quiet and loud, navigate the madly juxtaposed sections, weirdly complicated hard prog, and mindlessly bashed-out garage rock, and basically keep listeners on their toes as it's almost impossible to guess what might happen next, even within such a singular world as the one Dwyer has spent years carving out for the band. No matter what shape or form the songs take, they are driven by Dwyer's non-stop energy and the band's uncanny ability to transmit it through the speakers like sparks from a live wire. He's truly an indie rock treasure and if he and the Oh Sees made a hundred albums a year, they'd all be worth listening to. Especially if they had the raging fire, killer songs, and unpredictable genius that Orc has.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra