The Student Playlist

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REVIEW: Osees – ‘Protean Threat’ (Castle Face Records)


In a sentence:

Another refinement of a very well established style, John Dwyer’s latest Osees album ‘Protean Threat’ is probably most notable for the name change.

Protean Threat represents a debut for the indefatigable John Dwyer and his band under the name Osees – having previously gone by Thee Oh Sees, Oh Sees and OCS, to name just a few. Their 23rd album release to date in just over 15 years, Protean Threat is delivered in a distinguishable art-rock form that is truly unique to Osees, paired with a lo-fi sound that might just mistake the listener into thinking that the album is a product of the Seventies.

Protean Threat is as enjoyable for all fans of John Dwyer as you (and they) would expect. Always an auteur, Dwyer works his usual artistic wizardry into a storm of catchy and creative ideas. Characteristically, a lot of the material carries a melodic simplicity, with each track flowing well into the next to create a sense of coherence and overall theme, almost continuous even like a jam session. The record begins to take an interesting development as it is separated between hard, fast, and high-gain fuzz in tracks such as ‘Scramble Suit II’, ‘Dreary Nonsense’ to soft and low-mid-gain guitars in others such as ‘Red Study’ and ‘Upbeat Ritual’. Much like a tug-o-war, it leaves you guessing what direction the album might take next.

Music video for ‘Red Study’

‘Terminal Jape’ is a political reminder to the masses to kick against the misleading of the Trump administration in modern times, “future youth, do conspire, facelessness is key, cloak your flag… divert, disguise, mislead”. Naturally, it matches perfectly in sound with anger and energy, whilst blaring dissonant lead melodies and heavy basslines. The opening riff and continuing bassline that forms as a verse in the single ‘If I Had My Way’ bears a resemblance to ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ by The Doors, mirroring a Sixties aesthetic through and through.

However, Protean Threat suffers from too muchrepetition in certain places, perhaps most notably heard in ‘Gong Of Catastrophe’ and ‘Said The Shovel’, where the verse to chorus and back format is painstakingly familiar. Fortunately, spontaneous overdubbing, usage of a multitude of effects such as phasers, wah-wah, feedback and tempo changes make up for this short coming.

Dwyer and Osees have further refined a sound that has been explored in greater depth on previous records, whilst being fuelled by an already established style. However, without much extremity or deviation in production or songwriting, the record does not push into anything particularly interesting or substantial enough to characterise as being fresh or outstanding in their labyrinthine catalogue. (6/10) (Jack Walley)

Listen to Protean Threat by Osees here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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