Back in 1992-93, I used to love this band called Th’ Faith Healers. I felt like I could listen to their mix of Can/Neu! worshipping motorik rhythms and fuzzy garage psych forever. Sadly they broke up pretty quickly, and a couple members carried on as Quickspace a few more years, but it wasn’t the same, and then it was over. That all happened in the UK, and I never got to see that band live. Meanwhile in the U.S., John Dwyer was graduating from high school just as that band got rolling. By the end of the decade, he had migrated from Providence, R.I. to San Francisco, and became active in a million bands. It wasn’t until his “family” band Thee Oh Sees’ ninth album Putrifiers II (2012) that I realized it’s kind of a musical reincarnation of Th’ Faith Healers, but far more prolific, and an extra “e” to spare. Songs like “Wax Face” and “Lupine Dominus” grabbed my attention, and “No Spell” sealed the deal for me from Floating Coffin (2013). The motorik psych fuzz is back!
Dwyer announced a hiatus that caused some concern, but it was short lived, as they released Drop last year. To be honest I wouldn’t mind if they slowed down enough to really pack an album with consistently great songs. When the release of Mutilator Defeated At Last was announced, I had a good feeling that this would be the one. The band has made plenty of great records, but all of them had filler to some extent. 20 listens later, all the cuts hold up, and overall sound heavier than anything they’ve done before. Like-minded garage psych brother Ty Segall got heavy with the self-titled Fuzz project in 2013, as did WAND on their latest album. I don’t necessarily need to see every garage psych band in California go stoner rock, but it is gratifying to hear some talented musicians get into more heavy textures.
“Web” kicks it off with that propulsive motorik beat that I love, somehow sounding both eerie and exuberant. It could easily have stretched twice it’s 4:58 length. “Withered Hand” extends the chugging rhythms, but with a bit of heavy proto-doom in the mix. “Lupine Ossuary” takes the opportunity to partake in some gleefully serrated psych shredding. It’s great to hear Dwyer really dig in and explore his chops like Ax Genrich of underrated kosmische guitar deities Guru Guru. The pace slows for “Sticky Hulks,” but the haunting licks are worthy of prime Jimmy Page, no kidding. “Holy Smoke” is a bit of a departure with acoustic picking and keyboards that recall the lushness of Love. Energy levels return to red with the frenzied rave-up “Rogue Planet” before simmering to a close with the atmospheric, hushed “Palace Doctor” laced with some fine surf guitar. At 33:22 it’s not their shortest album, but it certainly leaves you wanting more. Lucky for Thee Oh Sees fans, there’s practically an endless variety of recordings to choose from, including three volumes of singles compilations and EPs. A few months absorbing your catalog and you can probably come up with a killer mix that rivals their latest, and best album.