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Osees - Intercepted Message (Album Review)

Tuesday, 22 August 2023 Written by Craig Howieson

Photo: Titouan Massé

Disruption seems to have become the most common, if not the only real way, to enact radical change. Upsetting the status quo, upending beliefs and subverting expectations enacts a competitive edge; something California's Osees can attest to since their own campaign of disruption started in the late 1990s.

Under the stewardship of John Dwyer, the group has studiously avoided following established industry paths. Releasing music on their own schedule — almost 30 records now — and refusing to settle on a fixed name for themselves, they have become a particularly successful thorn in the side of the establishment.

On ‘Intercepted Message’ the band manages to successfully capture the disruption at the centre of their ethos. It is, in its own manic, joyful way, a disjointed listen. It is the sound of a train leaving the station, as the group frantically throw their gear on the back and haul themselves on board only then to worry about the destination. 

Goon is a guttural punk stomper, and a nice reminder of just how influential Osees have been on bands such as Viagara Boys. Chaos Heart adds big rock riffs into the mix, and while ‘Intercepted Message’ is a gutsy punk record, these tracks are the closest to anything resembling typical punk songs. 

The rest of the songs arrive smothered in sleazy synths (Stunner), or making use of complex vocal samples that sound like drum pulses (or maybe it's the other way around?) on Blank Chems and Die Laughing. 

There is a welcome warmth that comes from the disorientation the record creates. Wormholes within wormholes provide an oddly satisfying escape and the antagonistic The Fish Needs a Bike is as brilliantly bonkers as the record gets. An attitude-altering piece of industrial garage-rock it is impossible to tell who or what is holding the whole thing together as it teeters on the edge of total collapse.

Rounding out the mayhem, there is a moment of startling clarity found in the penultimate track. On Always At Night Dwyer evokes some songwriting giants, and weaves them into a timeless synth-led ballad that stretches for more than seven minutes. It is a final surprise on a record that is stuffed with them, and proves that Osees have plenty methods of disruption left up their sleeves.


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