Originally conceived as a scrappy catch-all side project for a man who already had too many bands, Thee Oh Sees continue to epitomize scattered excess, with a sound that swings from grimy reverb-soaked rock to ghostly Appalachian folk to rougher, urbanized variations on such backwoods tropes. A lot of this is drawn from frontman John Dwyer’s experience with other groups (Coachwhips, Pink and Brown, the Hospitals), resulting in an aggregate style which has transformed a throwaway project into a form of creative apotheosis, something evinced by the band’s effusive output (six albums in the last four years). The recycling continues on Putrifiers II, a diverse burst of sampler rock united only by its rampant eclecticism and its unwavering affection for fuzz.
Although it may not seem like it upon first listen, there’s a lot of distance covered on the path from opener “Wax Face,” a solo-laden bit of distortion-addled guitar pop, to the sunshine-pop tune “Hang a Picture” and the dissonant dirge “So Nice,” a range masked by the album’s faux-lo-fi recording style. The title track uses distortion as putty, to fill the vacant air between strummed half notes, to lace the eventual escalating guitar riff with a certain measure of grit, and provide the amplifying backdrop for the sinister, squealing denouement.
Carefully structured songs like “Putrifiers II” prove that, despite the band’s prodigious output and scattershot style, they’re not trading in yet another slapdash application of atmospheric fuzz. Proof of their attention to detail comes via quiet moments, like the haunting flute that closes out “Will We Be Scared?” and the organ beeps glinting inside “Lupine Dominus.” Each of the band’s albums has its own particular fixations, and Putrifiers II flirts with the scrapheap folk of Holy Modal Rounders and Nico-era Velvet Underground, with many of the tracks affecting the washed-out, Eastern-influenced vibe of VU songs like “Venus in Furs” and “Heroin.” But the music here never has too clear of an antecedent, and the directions the album takes are generally unexpected—unsurprising for a band with such fondness for the unusual.