A Foul Form

Osees / Thee Oh Sees

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A Foul Form Review

by Mark Deming

It's been a long time since John Dwyer's greatest ambition for Thee Oh Sees was just to be the most engagingly psych-addled garage-punk band on Earth. The group's sonic trajectory and love of experimentation always testified to their creative ambition, especially as metal and prog became key parts of their formula on albums like 2015's Mutilator Defeated at Last and 2018's Smote Reverser. However, now that Dwyer has pared their name down to the efficient, five-letter handle Osees, it seems he's decided to give his music a bit of a trim at the same time. On 2022's A Foul Form, Dwyer and his bandmates have jumped headfirst back into the raw, energetic waters of punk rock. This is an album loaded with short, sharp shock -- seven of the ten tracks are under two minutes long, none break the four-minute mark, and the performances are full of hard lockstep drumming, red-throated vocals that switch back and forth from a bark to a scream, and lean, razor-edged electric guitars that buzz and howl. (The record closes out with a cover of "Sacrifice," originally by 1980s U.K. anarcho-punks Rudimentary Peni, and stylistically it doesn't sound a bit out of place.) Of course, John Dwyer being who he is, that's not all that's happening with A Foul Form. He frequently allows waves of electronic noisemaking and random synth sounds to wash over the performances, and if the structures of the songs are simple, they're executed with the precision of experts. The longer numbers like "Perm Act" and "Social Butt" also give the group room to play around with tempos and time signatures, as well as allowing them to put a hefty amount of sonic weirdness into the mix, one thing this band have never been shy about, whatever their latest name. Compared to the grander constructs of their latter-day Oh Sees albums, A Foul Form is a hit-and-run job where the music jumps in, leaves everyone stunned, and splits before the cops can show up. It's a manic blast of pure energy with lots of smarts if you're looking for them, and demonstrates Osees are never short on daring, ideas, and the skills to make them work. See you in the pit!

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