San Francisco garage rock weirdos Thee Oh Sees are prolific, to say the least. Somehow, despite the fact that they seem to be constantly on the road, bringing their ten-minute-plus fuzzed-out psychedelic jams to the frenzied masses, they continue to find time to record countless singles and contribute to a myriad of compilations. Front man John Dwyer compiled and released the Singles Collection Vol. 1 and 2 on his label Castle Face in 2011, and this Tuesday, the label will release Vol. 3, a collection of rarities that spans the band’s 2011-2013 hard-to-find creative output. This album works for both dedicated fans and those new to Thee Oh Sees’ world, as the band’s standards are high, and the songs included in this collection are of the high caliber we have come to know and expect.
Fans who failed to get their hands on the Castle Face Flexi-Disc collections (Flex and Son of Flex) will be pleased to hear both “What You Need” and “Always Flying” for the first time. “Always Flying” is a stand-out track with a signature Oh Sees bass line, and is a little slower than most of their current jams, but compliments closing track “Minotaur” from this year’s Floating Coffin release.
One of the collection’s highlights is a live version of “Block of Ice”, which has been a staple of the band’s current touring set-list. Having seen them live three times in the last six months, it’s been a pleasure to hear how the song mutates and grows into something different every time, and the version included in this collection is no exception, clocking in at a reserved 7:34. The song first appeared on 2008’s The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In and has been a part of the band’s live shows off and on since then. A huge part of the beauty of Thee Oh Sees is that, for as many songs as they now have, their sound is never really predicable.
A minor mis-step on the collection may be the inclusion of “FBI2”, a strange sort of sound-check-esque jam with Dwyer storytelling overtop, which unfortunately inspires memories of Cake, or, perhaps more kindly, something Jello Biafra might have penned. To the track’s credit, however, is the fact that it showcases the band’s diversity, and offers the listener a chance to hear Dwyer’s words more as poetry than merely as a component of the band’s unified sound.
On the whole, this collection definitely earns its place on the shelf next to classic Oh Sees releases like Warm Slime and Help. Thee Oh Sees are one of the hardest-working bands around right now, and, while it is a daunting task to keep up with their many releases, it is definitely rewarding. Dedicated fans will eagerly snap this record up, and hopefully new fans will stumble across this strong collection, too. And, maybe like one friend I know, their first listen will inspire them to order seven albums from the back catalogue on Amazon. You can never have too much Oh Sees.