With Protean Threat, John Dwyer is back yet again with Osees, and this time he is taking us into dystopia. There is something about this album that feels both anxiety-inducing and exhilarating at the same time, with jagged, off-kilter guitar effects and technological noise that makes the record feel like it is being emitted from a glitchy, sentient computer. John Dwyer’s signature idiosyncratic vocals return, and are coupled with cynical, apocalyptic lyrics that underscore the dystopian tone of the album. This lyrical darkness is especially apparent on tracks such as “Said the Shovel” where Dwyer describes a macabre image of war, fit with references to rotting piles of corpses and screaming girls in order to highlight the atrocity of warfare. To drive the imagery home, the lyrics of “Said the Shovel” are embedded within a hopeless musical soundscape, consisting of sparse, rattling drums, erratic bass, and an inhuman beeping that persists throughout the track (not to mention the wolf’s howl that appears at one point.) Despite the album’s often dreary tone and nightmarish subject-matter, Dwyer is still somehow able to inject the album with the classic garage energy, with head-banging tracks such as “Scramble Suit II”, with its boisterous and heavily distorted guitars, and “Terminal Jape”, with its equally noisy instrumentation paired with fittingly aggressive vocals. Still, these more energetic songs retain the overarching themes of dystopia, with Dwyer’s screamed lyrics on “Terminal Jape” questioning the extent of humanity’s freedom within a technological society. The defining aspect of this album are the technological, psychedelic tones that characterize each song with an unnatural and mechanical feel, such as “Wing Run” with its guitars and synths that sound imbued with alien technology.
Overall, Protean Threat is yet another enthralling entry in Osees’ extensive discography. On this record Dwyer is able to paint a picture of a desolate and authoritarian future with evocative lyricism without sacrificing the typical energy of Osees’ modern garage-rock heroism. Instead of basking in hopelessness, the band seemingly calls their listeners to action against the oppressive system, using the unrelenting energy of the album to do so. Protean Threat hits an effective balance between conveying its dark themes while also allowing listeners to rock-out to its infectious and psychedelic style, and will keep you coming back to experience its addicting dystopia once more.
-- Zac Zibaitis