There are few bands as notoriously prolific as cult garage-psych legends Oh Sees (née Thee Oh Sees, temporarily OCS). Their enigmatic commander-in-chief John Dwyer is as revered a figure as you get in modern rock, and rightly so. Dwyer’s sheer dedication to his craft, to reinvention, to musicianship and to cheeky satire aren’t really comparable to anyone else; and neither is his scope for mischievously experimenting with a genre he’s painstakingly made his own over the last decade or so.

Face Stabber, one of Oh Sees’ longest and most stylistically broad records so far, can be seen as a culmination of Dwyer’s driving urge to push beyond his hitherto-drawn boundaries. Here he revisits styles he’s dabbled with previously, like the folky sound of OCS’ Memories of a Cut Off Head, the propellant heavy rock of Smote Reverser’s ‘Overgrown’, or the entrancing krautrock of Orc and A Weird Exits, as well as branching out in new directions. And of those new directions, the sheer scale of Face Stabber is in itself Dwyer’s most experimental venture.

Merely as an attempt to keep their sound compelling and invigorated over the course of eighty minutes, Face Stabber amounts to Oh Sees’ most ambitious work yet. Seemingly constructed around the two lengthy tracks (‘Scutum & Scorpius’ and ‘Henchlock’) are the likes of ‘Poisoned Stones’, ‘The Experimenter’ and ‘The Daily Heavy’ - excellent, watertight psych-garage-krautrock tracks that display many of the styles and sounds Oh Sees have become renowned for. With their usual duality of a marching rhythm section under soaring, staggered melody work and Dwyer’s menacing, maniacally-delivered vocals, these are typically capable tracks.

On Face Stabber one could never accuse Dwyer and co. of the same pan-release stylistic over-similarity they were occasionally guilty of in the late 2000s/early 2010s. ‘Heart Worm’, ‘Gholü’ and ‘Face Stabber’ inject frantic pace and manic noise in brief bursts; while use of field recordings in the outros of ‘Face Stabber’ and ‘Fu Xi’ (as well as the eerie and aquatic wholly ambient track ‘Captain Loosley’) ensure that the record is both stylistically broad and paced with breaks of both high and low intensity. It’s a huge record, swinging from Oh Sees’ usual well-oiled garage-psych and numbing krautrock to Space Age electronica and Zappa-esque solo noodling, often within a single song.

Yet, as much as the brutal scale of Face Stabber makes it appear to be one of Oh Sees’ most enticing (and thus potentially rewarding) projects, its scale feels blinkered and stuck within certain boundaries of ambition. ‘Henchlock’, for example, as a twenty-minute neo-psychedelic romp, is experimental for Oh Sees but, compared to titans of lengthy psych-prog such as Can or Neu!, Tangerine Dream or Zappa, it’s nowhere near as enthralling or captivating. The same can be said for the fourteen-minute ‘Scutum and Scorpius’. Both are filled out with characteristic psych-rock jamming and absent-minded meandering that prove weary in the lengthy context of a double album. It isn’t that behemoth tracks are beyond Oh Sees’ capabilities -seeing them perform this stuff live is exhilarating beyond much else- but that those on Face Stabber feel indulgent and add unnecessary length to the track list.

And, despite the weariness of the two longer numbers, the main, unignorable detractor from one’s proper enjoyment of Face Stabber is that it doesn’t contain any tracks that could be considered among Dwyer’s best. None of the tracks could be dismissed as unimpressive nor ill-placed, but neither do they make a dent in what one expects of Oh Sees. For such an indulgently lengthy record there are few highlights, and even those tracks hardly match up to cherry-pickings from Smote Reverser, Orc or A Weird Exits. One can only wonder whether that would still have been the case had more material been condensed or cut, with some unnecessary tracks also contributing to the record’s general feeling of fatigue.

Oh Sees’ fervent following will adore the absurd scale and broad stylistic variation of Face Stabber. In the context of their own recent catalogue, however, this is more of the same. Dwyer’s band are still the masters of genre-leading and genre-defining garage-psych-founded mayhem but Face Stabber veils that slightly behind bloated long cuts and a lack of standout individual tracks.