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We used to wonder

Thee Oh Sees inspire a longing for an earlier time

THEE OH SEES: You in or out? Photo courtesy of MySpace

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Thee Oh Sees are not shy about what they do. This is made evident by "Warm Slime," the opening track on their album of the same name. At 13 minutes, it's a vast, towering tribute to '60s psychedelia, warts and all. The one-two bass line pounding on and on and on, while voices in the background chant "all you need is the summertime" and the guitars rise and fall, sometimes sending streams of feedback shooting through the speakers.

It's everything that you either love or hate about psychedelic rock, and it's right up in your fucking face, man. They open with "Warm Slime" like a dare, fingering you in the ribs and saying, "You in or out?"

It's our good luck that, once past "Warm Slime," we're treated to punk-garage-pop confections like "I Was Denied" and "Everything Went Black." The rest on Warm Slime is all loud, reverb-y garage goodness. It's as if the first song is the chugged whiskey bottle and the other songs are the night spent dancing.

Thee Oh Sees are more or less the brainchild of John Dwyer. Starting back in the late '90s, Dwyer began recording under the moniker of OCS, which stood for any number of things - Orange County Sound, Orinoka Crash Suite, etc. He went through several identity shifts over the next few years. Finally, the Ohsees became Thee Oh Sees, and that seems to be where it'll stay, now complete with a full band.

I suspect that keeping people constantly searching for and discovering him was a big part of the appeal for Dwyer. Unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity to ask him about that, because our telephonic conversation was cut short by a lousy signal. Damn technology!

In some ways, though, it's better not to know the inner workings of a band like Thee Oh Sees. You can't talk to a '60s psychedelic band via cell phone; you find their album and, for better or worse, it's yours to deal with.

The Internet has eliminated the joy of being utterly thrown off by an album. My dad talks about working at a record store in the '70s, and sometimes you'd just get an album from a band you‘d never heard of, and from whom you'd never hear again. It happened all the time, and you could never look them up. Maybe they got a write-up in some strange publication in London and that was it - forever.

It was just you and the music.

Warm Slime sounds homespun, almost like Thee Oh Sees recorded it live in an actual garage. It feels like a demo tape that you find in the back room of a venue that long ago changed management. Who were these people? How long ago did they play? Where are they now?

It used to be that rumors and legends would grow organically, person to person, over years and years. Now they spread like wildfire and are extinguished just as easily.

Wondering to yourself if your friend was full of shit when he told you that Thee Oh Sees got into a scuffle with the Chocolate Watchband at a club in San Francisco sometime back in 1967 is now a futile practice. That unreleasable Phil Spector-produced Thee Oh Sees album? You've no need to search for bootlegs.

What I suppose I'm trying to say - and perhaps not in the clearest of terms - is  Thee Oh Sees, and bands like them, go a long way toward reviving a feeling from a long time ago, and it's really an uphill battle. The sound is all there, but the band is positioned under a florescent light that strips away all mystery.

There's a magic in wondering, in the fear that you may never hear this music again. Warm Slime concretely exists, available to anyone at any time. I guess that's a good thing, ultimately.

But I still like thinking of that first song as Side A.

Thee Oh Sees

with the Maxines
Saturday, Sept. 11, 9 p.m., all ages, $7,
Northern, 321 Fourth Ave., Olympia

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