In 2011, genre-shattering rockers Thee Oh Sees put a fractured spin on pop with Castlemania, returning later in the year with the wild experimentation of Carrion Crawler/The Dream EP. A year later, Putrifiers II lands somewhere in between, combining those aesthetics while bounding forward with new ideas and influences.
Produced by Chris Woodhouse, who's been at the band's side since 2008's The Master's Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In, Putrifiers II is as warm as Thee Oh Sees have ever sounded, which reflects the sense of restraint (by their standards, anyway) and maturity that permeates the record even in its heaviest moments. On that heavier side, the title track and album centerpiece (for John Dwyer devotees, it's almost a sequel to the song "Putrifiers" from his mid-aughts distortion-drenched band Yikes) bounces back and forth between hippy-dippy vocals and corrosive guitar chugging, giving way to a synth/noise jam session outro, while the crunchy, motorik "Lupine Dominus" whizzes with Syd Barrett-esque freakiness and Suicide-style paranoia.
But Putrifiers II really shines with the tracks that show John Dwyer's increasingly melodic ear and the many forms it takes, making the connection from Nuggets-y strut to Motown rhythm ("Flood's New Light") and laid-back fuzz-pop to AM gold ("Hang a Picture"), as well as conjuring halcyon Byrds-meets-Kinks vibes ("Goodnight Baby") and idyllic symphonies in miniature ("Wicked Park"). On the more experimental side, the droning raga-like "So Nice" gives the feel of Thee Oh Sees' spin on "Venus in Furs" and "Tomorrow Never Knows," and "Will We Be Scared?" has the eerie, nostalgic swoon of Scott Walker and Dirty Beaches. With so many contrasting ideas mingling on one album, Putrifiers II suffers in terms of overall cohesiveness, but longtime fans will feel rewarded in hearing the band simultaneously honing what it does best and pushing its boundaries.
Incidentally, for this reason it's also a great introduction for newer listeners. After 15 years and over a dozen albums, Putrifiers II is part snapshot and part look into the crystal ball, showing Dwyer and company's ever-changing approach to songwriting and musicianship, and further cementing Thee Oh Sees' status as one of the most liberated, vital bands in indie rock.