Trying to get into Thee Oh Sees is like attempting to educate yourself on The Fall: there is an absurd amount of releases out there, but where do you start? The San Francisco-based band may have just released their Putrifiers II record, but their catalogue goes mighty deep, with the group’s albums bordering on double-digit territory despite the fact frontman John Dwyer only started the project in 2006. And that’s not even counting Thee Oh Sees’ multitude of singles, EPs, splits and one-offs, not to mention Dwyer’s previous incarnations of the project like OCS and Ohsees. While becoming a Dwyer fanatic can be a money-sucking venture, here are five cornerstones every Oh Sees collection shouldn’t be without.
1. Sucks Blood (2007)
Marking the first proper full-length from Thee Oh Sees, the album stands as a stellar example of Dwyer’s lo-fi psych-folk phase, and easily goes down as one of the band’s best. Bringing together a collection of low-key campfire folk-outs, the record highlights both Dwyer’s oddball recording techniques and his stunning melodic sense, with the breathy harmonies of longtime Oh See Brigid Dawson adding an extra layer of ghostly beauty. The white vinyl with blood-red smears only adds to its awesomeness.
2. Thee Hounds of Foggy Notion (2008)
Foggy Notion was recorded live in 2007, but it comes across more as an album proper, featuring a selection of tracks from the Sucks Blood era, as well as some that would appear on future releases. But the versions here are worlds apart from their studio counterparts, as Dwyer and co. strip everything down to its core to reveal the band at their mellowest and most fragile. With mountains of reverb, softly sung male-female harmonies and even some singing saw, the record stands as Thee Oh Sees’ best hangover cure. The album also comes with a DVD featuring the performances captured by director Brian Lee Hughes, as the group mellow out their jams in non-traditional settings that range from a forest, an oceanside boardwalk and a kitchen.
3. The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In (2008)
Often considered the pinnacle of Oh Sees releases, Master’s Bedroom was the band’s big breakthrough. Ditching the chilled-out vibes, this is where they first emerged as raging garage-rock deviants, setting the louder, brasher Oh Sees standard that continues to this day. Highlighting Dwyer’s newfound rock ’n’ roll snarl, scorching six-string insanity and some downright killer rock hooks, this is when Thee Oh Sees became dangerous and a true force to be reckoned with. Chances are, when fans scream requests from the midst of the pit, they are from Master’s Bedroom.
4. Quadrospazzed ’09 (2009)
While maybe not essential, this release is still plenty rad. A one-sided 12-inch, the one-track effort was recorded live at 60 Sixth Street in San Francisco, and it’s a stunning example of the over-the-top rock ’n’ roll beast Thee Oh Sees can be live. Containing one of their hypnotic 10-minute-plus garage-rock freak-outs, it’s the closest you’ll come to experiencing a sweaty, beer-drenched Oh Sees show in your living room. And the jack-o’-lantern-adorned etching on the flip is killer.
5. Singles Vol. 1 + 2 (2011)
If you think it’s hard to collect all Thee Oh Sees’ albums, just try hunting down all their singles — it will wipe out both you and your bank account. Thankfully, there’s this standup singles comp to make your life a little easier, gathering 24 rarities, covers, demos and previously unreleased gems on two slabs of vinyl. But not only does it help you track down these hard-to-find nuggets, it servers as a great introduction to the weird and wonderful world of Thee Oh Sees.