Osees’ A Foul Form is a short, violent, angry masterpiece. The vocals, allegedly recorded by self-confessed control freak John Dwyer while suffering from COVID, have the band’s tireless leader hoarsely shouting about, among other things: police brutality, the mind poisoning of religious indoctrination, fear, and death. At least that’s as much as can be deciphered. After all, A Foul Form is the multi-monikered California band’s valentine to primitive punk albums from the 70s and 80s, the likes of which were recorded quickly and cheaply with little concern for fidelity.
“Hey you, fogging up the windows, scratching at the front door, crawling on the ground,” Dwyer barks cartoonishly on the album’s title track as fuzzed-out guitars rip through and a simple beat is pounded out on a cut-rate drumkit. The songs on A Foul Form are sequenced so there’s rarely a moment’s peace between tracks. As one song ends, children’s voices that sound as if they’re being recorded from the edge of a happy playground can be heard briefly before the next chaotic screamfest begins. Minutes later, the voices reappear, but now the kids sound as if they’re trapped inside walls trying to claw their way out. Otherworldly electronics also find their way into the record’s interstitial spaces, but instead of offering a psychedelic ear-reset or a synth-washing respite, the bleeps and bloops are contextualized by the surrounding material to come across as creepy, ushering in caveman-like drumming and throbbing basslines before Dwyer and guitarist Tom Dolas launch themselves full-bore into the next soul-searing aural assault.
That the band have chosen not to use their Oh Sees moniker on A Foul Form was not an arbitrary decision. Listening to this album, it’s easier to envision a handful of freakishly exaggerated Kricfalusi-esque animated monsters furiously hammering out this music than actual humans. All the songs on A Foul Form are originals except the last, “Sacrifice”, which is a cover of a Rudimentary Peni song. Osees don’t stray from the source material in both tempo and length, and the track works well as a sharp, quick final stab. A Foul Form is a wild 22-minute ride, one worth taking if you’re a fan of the kind of raw, rowdy albums that helped shape the taste of arty scum-punk weirdos everywhere.