As if his Nardwuar interview was not evidence enough, Thee Oh Sees patron saint John Dwyer has unmistakably always been a student of the west coast garage scene, though he spreads his influences in metal and psychedelia far and wide on nearly every record he’s made with the band, and A Weird Exits is no exception. “Gelatinous Cube” begins with an unmistakable homage to “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath with its long, looming, sludgy bended opening notes before kicking into high gear. “Ticklish Warrior” recalls previous heavy numbers such as “Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster” – Dwyer and Tim Hellman’s respective guitar-and-bass combo create the aural equivalent of a stampeding John Rambo-helmed tanker on a bad day, ensuring doom through its distorted, double-picked, descending arpeggios. On the lighter side, closer “The Axis” borrows from the other side of Dwyer’s leanings by constructing a quasi-ballad backed by church organ keyboards that appear to have been transported from an in-prime Manfred Mann’s Earth Band or Procol Harum LP.
Tracks like “Jammed Entrance” find the recent two-drummer setup a suitable home. Like other bands with the same structure – Tortoise, Melvins (when paired with Big Business), and former In the Red Records label mates The Dirtbombs – the usage of two players on the skins is not intended to outshine the rest of the group; it’s a textural choice, and Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon hit a very comfortable mark on this album, particularly during the percussive break towards the latter half of “Plastic Plant.”
Dwyer’s the Billy Joel of garage punk, and while that may sound completely outlandish, just think of who else in the scene would be more deserving of the title. Artists such as Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, and White Fence don’t inhabit the assortment of voicing that Dwyer brings to Thee Oh Sees – especially over the course of a single LP. Like Joel, Dwyer is able to inhabit a plethora of different vocal deliveries depending on his whim: there’s his a-few-chairs-missing profit of doom persona (best heard commanding “EAT MEAT” in the opening lines of “Carrion Crawler”), the reedy falsetto amidst a backdrop of chaos (“Encrypted Bounce,” “Lupine Dominus”), the starving grindhouse villain (“AA Warm Breeze”), and several others. A gallery of those masks is on display in A Weird Exits, sometimes featuring more than one in the span of a song’s verse. Opener “Dead Man’s Gun” finds Dwyer giving his classic whisper/shout following its repeating pantomiming guitar lick.
Thee Oh Sees are one of those rare acts that have complete and total control of their aesthetic from the ground up. They are –or rather – John Dwyer is an auteur, keeping everything in check from release to release. The enticingly gross album artwork, the vaguely menacing song titles; it all makes too much sense, and from start to finish, they have the ability to evoke imagery from movies as scattershot as The Stuff or Come and See. Apart from mourning the noticeable absence of contribution from past member Brigid Dawson, A Weird Exits carries on the torch, marking another quality record from the most inventive and reliable band in their milieu.