Bringing the Noise

Thee Oh Sees and the Intelligence at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 9 October 2008

Not having seen Thee Oh Sees or the Intelligencebefore I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Well I sorta new what to expect, lots of white noise drenched pop songs.  The Intelligence’s new album Deuteronomy is leaps and bounds ahead of their previous two with clearer production and better songs, but the band stick with their noisy punk rock roots only delivering them more effectively.  The Oh Sees new album, the lengthy titled The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In is sonic trip drenched in loads of echo and reverb with songs that are part Brian Jonestown Masacre, part Raveonettes and but mostly Cramps.

So when I saw two drum sets being set up for what I thought was to be Intelligence I was intrigued.  In my world, two drummers is almost always a cool thing.  Then I saw John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees setting up his amps and tuning his twelve string guitar so I figured that the schedule had been switched up to let the hometown Intelligence headline.  Then I saw Lars Finberg of the Intelligence on the other side of the stage with his twelve string.  Not knowing what to think at this point, I figured that since these two guys are friends and their bands having just put out a split 12″ (on mtn st mtnand it’s sold out already), that Dwyer was maybe going to play with Intelligence for their set.  I was totally wrong, and actually a little confused when both Thee Oh Sees and Intelligence bounded on the tiny Sunset Tavern stage.  What exactly did Thee Oh Sees and the Intelligence have in store? 

With Thee Oh Sees on the A-side and Intelligence on the B-side, the bands ended up playing the entire show like the split release they just put out.   Thee Oh Sees would do a song and then the Intelligence’s, and that’s how it went for the whole set back and forth with various members of each band joining in the other’s song here and there.  At one point after Thee Oh Sees one of their songs, Finberg says, I hope you liked that song and then the Intelligence proceed to play the same song.  That song, Block of Ice, was written by Dwyer and is on both Thee Oh Sees record as the new Intelligence record.  You might think delivering a set like this would feel a little disjointed, but these two bands have such similar sounds that it really worked.  First there are the obvious similarities like Dwyer and Finberg’s twelve string guitars and apparent disdain for the bass guitar.  Both bass players (I shouldn’t call them that, they were really guitarists)  were playing bass lines on regular guitars.  Though they do have a similar sound aesthetic, the bands are easily distinguishable from one another.  Thee Oh Sees have with their Cramps fetish and psychedelic garage rockabilly tempered with sunny west coast melodies courtesy Brigid Dawson. The Intelligence verge more towards a Dragnet and Grotesque era Fallschool of angular garage rock with a heavy dose the weirdness exhibited Ohio noiseniks Braniac.  Both bands looked like they were having a blast doing their ping pong set.  Dwyer was always making weird facial expressions, and manhandling his guitar with Chuck Berry poses.  Finberg, when he sings has this infectious grin his face that belies the artiness of their sound. There was also some lite hearted jabbing at one another with Finberg flipping his guitar over displaying the words ‘Fuck You’ and gesturing at Thee Oh Sees.   The double decker set really worked, with the Sunset crowd totally digging both bands, cheering them on as if they were in a race.

I got there early enough to catch the openers.  The first band was Love Tan which is another project of Craig Chambers of the Lights. Love Tan is Chambers on guitar and vocals accompanied by drummer Matthew Ford who use to be in the Intelligence. It was a perfect fit for this treble heavy bill. Also caught Ty Segal who is a one man band from San Francisco.  He played drums, guitar and sang all at once. I’m amazed by anyone that can do two things at once, Ty can do at least three.

mp3: Thee Oh Sees – Block of Ice (from The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night)

mp3: The Intelligence – Block of Ice (from Deuteronomy)

mp3: The Intelligence – Moon Beams (also from Deuteronomy)


  1. bill p · October 12, 2008

    thee oh sees and ty segall played here a couple weeks ago with sic alps… it was a great show, but the one you saw looks like it was more fun.

  2. Toby · October 12, 2008

    It was pretty fun. Thanks to your Oh Sees review that convinced me to go see them in the first place.

  3. douglasmartin49 · October 20, 2008

    that sounded like a great show, adding to the level of unpredictability that i’ve come to expect from thee oh sees. when i saw them over the summer in portland, dwyer’s bandmates would have these looks on their faces directed at him, as if even they had no idea what was going to happen next. and they probably didn’t, which made the show that more enjoyable.

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