John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees have really taken off. If you’re a skate rat, you’ll know that their last In The Red release (2010’s Warm Slime) was heavily featured in Krooked’s 3D skate video. The band plays big festivals in Europe and gets reviewed in Pitchfork. It’s a nice change of pace to see a really good band “make it.” Castlemania, the group’s latest release, picks up where Warm Slime left off. The record was recorded by John Dwyer and Eric Bauer. The former’s lo-fi approach to production is still present on Castlemania. Dwyer plays pretty much all the instruments himself, with occasional help from Ty Segall (who pretty much plays all the instruments on his own records). Luckily, Dwyer is still under the influence of Syd Barrett and The Television Personalities’ Dan Treacy. Like Barrett, his phrasing is unique and there’s a storybook quality to Dwyer’s lyrics; some of his songs are almost appropriate for a kindergarten sing-a-long book. But like Barrett (or his lo-fi, punk-rock protégé Treacy) there’s just something a bit off about them—take out the bit about being dead, and “I Need Seed” would fit nicely on a PBS program for kids. Castlemania transcends the psych-burnout of ‘68-’70 with elements of baroque pop and darker material (incidentally genres Nico explored throughout her career). “Idea for Rubber Dog” displays elements of early Roxy Music (“Bob (Medley)”). But the baroque-pop tracks really come alive with Brigid Dawson or Heidi Maureen Alexander on vocals. These songs are really the highlight of the record, with the odd minor chord thrown in (something Gene Clark was known for). If you love the Notorious Byrd Brothers, The Rose Garden’s self-titled record, and/or Bull of the Woods, pick this one up.
–ryan (In The Red)