For a band bent on ramshackle erraticness, Thee Oh Sees are maddeningly consistent. Castlemania, the latest full-length from frontman John Dwyer and crew, doesn’t break the crazy streak. While it’s technically another hack-and-slash assault on the senses that scorches the garage rock’s hallowed ground, the album manages to find a fresh detour for the group to stagger down: After a duo of Syd Barrett-in-orbit acoustic songs, “In Need Seed” and “Corprophagist (A Bath Perhaps),” Dwyer’s flu-stricken croon—with some frenetic flute—carries over into the snotty, slobbery “Stinking Cloud,” a swarming assault of distorted cave-punk. But the album levels after takeoff, hitting a sustained sweet spot that finds room for everything from Roky Erickson-dredged phantasmagoria (on the mind-scrambling “Spider Cider” and the unsettlingly gentle “Corrupted Coffin”) to the symphonically sludgy “I Won’t Hurt You,” a psychedelic lullaby dripping equal parts marshmallow and menace. The disc concludes with the murky, cobweb-draped death-surf of “What Are We Craving?”—a question the song doesn’t bother answering. But it doesn’t need to: Even after the drawbridge to Castlemania has been raised, its acidic, singsong dementia lingers like an aftertaste.
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