If you can unify nearly 20 years of consistent changes in lineup and band name, A Weird Exits is the 17th album by the band now called Thee Oh Sees. What had me excited for this album was the band’s new 4-piece lineup, featuring two, count ‘em, TWO drummers—unfortunately, there just wasn’t much on the album to get excited about. With only 8 tracks spread across 40 minutes, you’d expect great things from each track, yet too many of them felt like plain, cut and dried rock infused with a few interesting ideas, but weighed down by the squandering of potential.
“Dead Man’s Gun” opens the album, driven by frantic and full-bodied dual drumming that accomplishes more in theory than one drum kit could do, though the difference is so subtle, the song might as well be driven by one kit. Flighty vocals are punctuated with a guitar riff that echoes Lenny Kravitz “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, leaving little to impress here. “Ticklish Warrior” at least has a simple, headbanging riff and distant-shouting vocals, but the dual drums, although loud again, feel unnecessary.
The third track, “Jammed Entrance” was the first that caught my attention (not a good sign for such a short album)—it’s an instrumental track with a funky rhythm underlying a strange electronic melody. It sounds like it’d fit right at home between Herbie Hancock’s transitional albums Sextant and Head Hunters, which is a very good thing. This kicks off into “Plastic Plant”, definitely the strongest song on the album for me. Its galloping rhythm (think pitched-up early Black Sabbath) and extended drum break towards the end is one of the few times the dual drums is truly utilized. This is followed by the snarling, spastic “Gelatinous Cube”, a punky and heart-pumping track.
Too bad things only decline from that point. The instrumental “Unwrap the Fiend” has an interesting sound that goes from a springy melody to a ricocheting riff, but it runs on a little too long. “Crawl Out From the Fall Out” takes the same problem and doubles it—there’s a downtempo cello rhythm that repeats for nearly 8 minutes, with no buildup and little new ideas to keep the song afloat. “The Axis”, a 6-minute track, makes the same offence—lazy, near-melting vocals play over a kind of gospel ballad made up of the same repeating organ chords and drum groove. It’s a fine song, but just fine. It does little to remedy the mediocrity that bookends the album.
The middle of A Weird Exits shows how fun and creative Thee Oh Sees can be, but it’s overshadowed by the uninteresting bulk of the rest of the album, a problem that shouldn’t arise when you have such a limited selection of songs. There’re no ‘bad’ tracks per se, but the album brings little to an already huge discography. Hopefully Thee Oh Sees can take what did work and expand and refine that in future releases under their current lineup.