In Review: Osees - Protean Threat

John Dwyer's latest album sees a welcome return to the rapid, breakneck garage rock we've grown accustomed to over the past two decades, and shows no signs of letting up just yet.
Posted: 30 September 2020 Words: Tom Mangham

Once introduced to Osees - be it via Ty Segall and other West Coast artists, or even the soundtrack to best-selling game Grand Theft Auto V - you’ll be fully aware that multi-instrumentalist John Dwyer is as constantly present as he has been for the last two decades, with Osees’ continual output of at least one album per year ensuring they’re never far from the back of your mind. With 23rd studio record Protean Threat, they once again continue their impressive run of form.

With 2019’s Face Stabber incorporating elements of progressive rock and coming in at 80-minutes long, Protean Threat is a complete U-turn; a throwback back to Osees’ older records with more psych/garage mentalities, it notably lacks the now trademark, stupidly long jam sessions from previous releases. However, furiously fast punk songs (most of which clock in at under three minutes) are still in abundance on the 13-track record, the hard-hitting ‘Dreary Nonsense’ and the frankly filthy ‘Terminal Jape’ standing out.

As far as opening tracks go, ‘Scramble Suit II’ is up there. Not only does it throw the listener straight into the deep end of the endless ocean that is Osees, but it also gives them little space to breathe and even take in what’s happening. It’s a haze of distorted guitar, hypnotic bass provided by Flatworms powerhouse Tim Hellman, and a double drumbeat that incite insanity courtesy of Dan Rincon and Paul Quattrone. Differing from previous releases like 2017’s Orc, the addition of keys player Tomas Dolas allows Dwyer the freedom to just shred.  The aforementioned ‘Terminal Jape’ is a special track - a bassline that’ll rip your face off and Dwyer’s angry but worried vocals about CCTV and government use of facial recognition technology make for bleak and heavy soundscapes. Looking back though, Osees have never been about easy listening.

It’s hard to pinpoint a specific theme of the record, while there are certainly some signature elements of rapid punk and garage as specified before, Protean Threat gets too bogged down with the experimental and the avant-garde. It’s almost definitely not a bad thing, but songs like ‘Said the Shovel’, with its groovy atmospheric bassline and synth overtones, immediately heading into scuzzy animal ‘Mizmuth’, sort of ruins any atmosphere that the former was building.

While it may not be their most prolific or attuned work, Osees are certainly not slowing down with age or letting slip their current form, and with another two albums scheduled to release in 2020, Dwyer is showing no signs of letting up yet.

Protean Threat is out now via Castle Face Records.

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