If you come to Thee Oh Sees looking for something fresh and exciting, you will leave disappointed. But there will always be a place in my heart for unabashed, unaffected, hard-partying, rock-and-roll hooliganism, and Thee Oh Sees make a good case for themselves on Drop for why they deserve that spot.
The opening track, “Penetrating Eye,” perfectly sets the expectations for the rest of the album. On it, a keyboard drifts through some ominous arpeggios before a brief squeal of feedback launches the band into the first of many gnarled guitar riffs. The sound is satisfyingly filthy, almost unhealthily so, like an old tennis shoe dragged through a puddle of motor oil and then lit on fire so that it sits smoldering in a back alley until someone drops a garbage bag on it.
If Jack White, an influence or at least a kindred soul, took criticism for trying to pay homage to so many influences that he ended up honoring none of them, The Oh Sees have so efficiently blended so many inspirations here, from Wire and the Velvet Underground to Joy Division and most of all Led Zeppelin, that they just end up sounding like the platonic ideal of a garage rock band.
And that is fine with me. If the Oh Sees can deliver solid rock and roll—and tunes like “Drop” and “Penetrating Eye” prove they can—I see no reason to hold their lack of imagination against them. Indie music has a tendency to fawn over imagination and underrate visceral, inebriated, emotional power, which isn’t necessarily easier to achieve even if it’s thought to be so. But while fawning requires really caring about a band, enjoying Thee Oh Sees demands only a few beers and some loud speakers, and thankfully I have both at my disposal.