Before everything — before the likes of Pitchfork was declaring a San Francisco garage-rock renaissance; before seemingly every local band discovered reverb, fuzz, and a sort of distinctly Bay Area baked-out sound; before it became completely plausible that any greasy-haired guy in the Mission could be anointed Next Big Thing in the music world — before all this, there was John Dwyer and Thee Oh Sees. Hugely prolific, highly creative, legendarily inspirational to a slew of bands that followed, the group has constantly flirted with stardom without ever quite getting there. And on Carrion Crawler/The Dream, the band’s seventeenth studio release since first emerging in 2004, it’s clear how Thee Oh Sees got where they are today: It’s a perfectly well-crafted record, vital and raw, rife with Dwyer’s trademark stabbing guitars, neo-psychedelic flourishes, and organic aesthetic.
Unfortunately, that’s all Carrion is: a nice rehashing of the band’s previous work, with no standout track or even any apparent guiding mood or creative impulse. It’s in no way offensive, just frustrating — both because it’s a betrayal of Thee Oh Sees’ potential and because the garage scene continues to grow and stretch around them. Maybe this is complacency, maybe it’s what happens when you put out an average of two records a year for eight years, or maybe it’s just the musical cycle of life. Either way, it’s a disappointment. (In the Red)