Wooden Shjips, a band hardly famed for its originality, have returned with yet another record loaded with swirling synths, fuzzy guitars and tangential solos. West, their latest album, a slightly more grounded affair than their previous work, features very little variation on this but will by no means leave you diving for your stop button either; a trait rare in such long winded psychedelia.
And long winded it is. At some points, particularly in the frankly puzzling closer ‘Rising’, a cross between ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, a lentil bake and a bad dream, and some of the longer improvisations, I wonder whether if this outfit weren’t from San Francisco they’d be filling the daytime slot at a solstice gathering in Devon. This is possibly due to my own prejudices towards psychedelic rock though, as in points the album is fantastic. Drawing on bands such as Hawkwind and The 13th Floor Elevators, West has moments of sludgy, loud groove-based brilliance which reminds you how much you missed listening to loud, unadulterated ‘rock’, whilst maintaining Can-esque driving, repetitive and hypnotic rhythms.
The opener, ‘Black Smoke Rise’, crashes down like a tonne of lead upon the weak art rock of most ATP and Pitchfork approved bands. A blur of gritty basslines and organ riffs, it makes you wonder why any other time signature apart from 4/4 was ever dabbled in. Meanwhile, the rather inaptly titled ‘Lazy Bones’ blasts a 900mph blues riff played alongside a spooky organ line reminiscent of Black Sabbath and The Doors respectively.
Good as many of the songs are though, there is a rather irritating similarity between every song, and also between every album in my opinion. San Francisco’s wealth of musical treasures has been mined to extinction by this band and they don’t seem to show signs of stopping, albums which seems to be constructed entirely of references seem to be tediously normal for Wooden Shjips.
Released on 15th August 2011 by Thrill Jockey