Garage rock and nachos have something in common: It’s difficult to mess up when making either.
“Drop,” Thee Oh Sees’ latest effort, expands the simple, repetitive structure and lyrics from previous efforts. The group manages to branch out from prior releases while still incorporating familiar motifs by filtering new sounds between loud guitars and floor-busting drums.
Mikal Cronin and Ty Segall, fellow garage rock gods and Thee Oh Sees collaborators, dropped projects in 2013 that showed substantial artistic growth. Cronin’s “MCII” featured fewer full-scale, chord-driven freak-outs than his first album; Segall went unplugged and dreary with “Sleeper.” Although no aspect from Thee Oh Sees’ “Drop” hints at large, creative turns, it has simply improved at what it does.
“Camera,” track six, sounds similar to other songs from the band’s past projects: The riff stays constant, and the bass and drums trudge as a sadistic backdrop. But the riff and its resonant notes’ catchiness are unfair. Similar to golden-age rock cuts like The Troggs’ “Wild Thing” or The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” the groove eclipses the song and its greater meaning.
And I wouldn’t recommend searching for profound themes in “Drop.” Listeners will miss the intense instrumentals in doing so.
“Encrypted Bounce” features Thee Oh Sees at both its sleekest and dirtiest — like a polished marble counter after a dirt-engulfed canine jumps on it. “Savage Victory” holds low-key loathing in the form of gyrating keys and surf-rock licks.
Whether taking stylistic turns or sticking to the old formula, Thee Oh Sees’ appease its core audience throughout “Drop.”
Garage rock and top-40 pop clearly differ in most faucets. If we stereotype pop’s general audience as simple-minded teenagers, rock ‘n’ roll’s listeners must be over-analytical and stuck in the past. Although they contrast, these genres’ largest strengths and weaknesses at times seem identical.
Take Thee Oh Sees and Katy Perry. Both acts constantly churn out music that, for the most part, exhibits what made them successful in the first place. Perry rarely abandons the gigantic choruses from 2008’s “One of the Boys,” and, as mentioned, Thee Oh Sees’ oft-familiar sounds have provided the basis for each album.
Call the aforementioned “Camera” from the band’s album its “I Kissed a Girl.” Like Perry’s first chart-topper, the song should catapult Thee Oh Sees to prominence. The White Stripes and The Black Keys thrived on underground tunes before breaking out, so Thee Oh Sees could reach that level as well.
But this San Francisco quintet does just enough to keep loyal fans without gaining new ones. After all, Perry packs a punch but is no Lady Gaga.
“Drop” still incorporates more than seven decades worth of music into a 30-minute collection. Like Deerhunter’s “Monomania” last year, you can hear Thee Oh Sees hone in on each note-worthy period from music’s past and stick tidbits between their own ideas.
Thee Oh Sees’ latest effort listens as well as any garage rock albums from the last three or four years. “Drop” won’t move the masses but deserves merit as one of 2014’s best releases so far.
Final Rating: Four out of Five Suns