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Review: Thee Open Sex self-titled album

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Thee Open Sex album cover
  • Thee Open Sex album cover

Emerging out of a side-project/tape from 2009 called Open Sex on Every Street Corner, which was essentially a 30-minute, three-chord jam, Thee Open Sex now includes members of Bloomington outfits Apache Dropout and Landlord, as well as Magnetic South's own recording jedi John Dawson and lead singer Rachel "Miss Mess" Weidner. That kind of genealogy should leave very little doubt as to the general sound we're talking about here: heavy rhythms and mind-bending guitar fuzz explorations reined in by a bit of pop structure. Although clocking in at a mere 30 minutes, the album still manages to seem epic, traversing a variety of weird sonic landscapes while retaining a consistent mood. The result is a coherent statement, rather than a simply a collection of songs. This album demands that you listen to it from start to finish.

The second track on the album, "I Do Not Know What," is, in my mind, quintessential Kraut-influenced psych-rock, marching forward at a seemingly inexhaustible pace, never changing, never breaking into a chorus, with only Weidner's haunting, disassociated voice to provide a landmark of any sort to let you know that time has passed. In fact, this album owes a tremendous amount to Weidner and her ability to tread the line between sugar-pop vixen and pagan enchantress, providing continuity and a certain sensuality to this series of hard-edged electric guitar voyages.

After three full-on doses of psych-fuzz that build in intensity, the album takes a sharp turn with the fourth song, "Gimme Away." It's a dark surf-rock interlude that would almost seem out of place on this album except that it ends up being kind of refreshing. It's a palate cleanser - - and an example of the different directions this album can take in a very short space.

"Live Dead" is a truly bizarre cut that starts with a maniacally simple snare beat combined with long, slowly unraveling guitar notes and splashing cymbals that seem to crescendo along with Weidner's disembodied wail. The song builds and builds, sounding like a deranged invocation to long-lost gods of psychedelic rock and roll. Like Jefferson Airplane in their mid-'60s best, unleashed and asking for no one's permission to get as weird as possible.

The album is capped off by the somewhat oddly named "Maximum Rock n' Roll II." Weidner's voice is the focal point of this track, leading it over the hyper-sonic fuzz and repeated rhythm that make this a fun, almost sugary coda to this album.

Thee Open Sex at Cataracts, 2012 - GRANT CATTON

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