November 19th, 2017 | Album reviews

Memory of a Cut Off Head
Castle Face

In these times of great uncertainty, this kind of confidence cannot be taken for granted: Memory of a Cut Off Head, the new record by OCS (f.k.a. Thee Oh Sees) presents a rare and vulnerable side of John Dwyer, cleanly separate from the chaotic garage punk his group has built its reputation on during the past twenty years. Just months ago, that Oh Sees released arguably one of their heaviest records yet—Orc was a hard-charging barrage of sonic sludge and sci-fi annihilation. For their 20th full length, however, OCS offers a much gentler approach to the band’s aesthetic—and an unexpected return to its earliest ideas. OCS was actually the project’s first name, and the record features the formal return of longtime vocalist and contributor Brigid Dawson, her first appearance since the band’s hiatus in 2013. Memory recalls a more hopeful era of folk rock, reminiscent of both the San Francisco and Laurel Canyon scenes in the 1960’s, almost rising from the ashes that left by the scorching sounds of thee Oh Sees. Warm and comforting (and sometimes carefully discordant) melodies replace Dwyer’s signature distortion, and harmony momentarily supersedes our disarray. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? For the next forty-five minutes, perhaps.

—Bennett Kogon