Thee Oh Sees Live In San Francisco Castle Face Records
Article written by
Ged M - Aug 15, 2016
Live albums are usually the poor relation in a band’s history. By definition, the playing is rawer and the songs less well recorded than the studio versions. They’re often a nice gig souvenir for those who’ve seen the band in action but you wouldn’t play the live version in preference to the record.
That’s a general principle but it’s occasionally upturned by a record that captures the brutal energy and feral attraction of the artist. That was true of the MC5’s Kick Out The Jams and Sonic Youth’s Walls Have Ears and it’s true of Thee Oh Sees’ Live in San Francisco. There’s something raw and unstable in an Oh Sees record, something that follows instinct and embraces experimentalism, that makes this so listenable in its own right.
Recorded at The Chapel over three nights in July 2015, on the tour supporting the release of Mutilator Defeated At Last, the record catches the whole anarchic punk/garage-rock ramalama dynamic of Thee Oh Sees, from the sleazy thrash-power of ‘I Come From The Mountain’ to the turbulent 15 minute hypno-trip of ‘Contraption’, via the dystopic darkness of ‘Web’ and the mosh-inducing hounds-of-hell-possessed ‘Tunnel Time’. The songs are driven by the double-drumming dynamic of Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon, which is compelling on the deep heavy psych of ‘Man In A Suitcase’ and impressively consistent on ‘Contraption’. And throughout John Dwyer cranks out killer riffs (‘Tidal Wave’, ‘Web’), gets all Marc Bolan metallic on ‘Toe Cutter Thumb Buster’, or goes right into the red with his screams and scything guitar (‘Sticky Hulks’).
The bonus DVD allows you to check visually what your ears are telling you. While nothing beats seeing them in the flesh (one of my all time favourite gigs was a superheated show at the Luminaire, where condensed sweat flowed down the walls in rivers), the DVD gives you a good idea of the energy and abandon of a live set by Dwyer and band. It’s a defining picture of one of our greatest bands in action – if you want to know who and what Thee Oh Sees are, here’s a great starting point.