To say that WOODEN SHJIPS have ‘changed direction’ with the release of their fourth album, ‘Back To Land,’ would be a bit of an over-statement. These eight tracks (forty-two minutes) are unmistakably and unashamedly ‘WOODEN SHJIPS.’
There is a difference though – a development on their earlier releases, and most certainly from their debut eponymous offering back in 2007: in broad terms, ‘Back To Land’ is lighter, more uptempo and basically neatly packaged into neat little (average) five-minute-something tracks. No lengthy, wandering freak-outs here.
The backbone of course remains the droned organ, the flesh being the concise guitar solos of Ripley Johnson (also of the equally brilliant Moon Duo.) This is all fattened out with fuzzed-up reverb, slight feedback, and understated, almost mono-toned vocals that seem to drift in and out from somewhere way back in the production.
The album opens with the title track which basically reinforces what I’ve said already. It’s upbeat with a kind of krautrock feel and an almost bluesy guitar solo laid across the top. ‘Ruins‘ has a bouncy, danceable even, refrain and differs considerably from what I’ve heard from the band previously. In a good way, of course! ‘Ghouls’ maintains the pace, the beat this time being a little more frantic and the track taking on a ‘harder’ edge than may normally be associated with the band.
‘These Shadows,’ lapses into a more heady, steady, psychedelic groove with soft vocals and lazy,, gentle guitar solos, before ‘In The Roses,’ explodes into a whirling cascade of rasping, swirling organ and metronomic drumming. For me though, ‘Other Stars‘ steals the show with it’s more ‘space-rock’ vibe reminding me a little of early White Hills stuff.
‘Servants‘ is the longest of the eight tracks, clocking in at slightly over six minutes and retains the basic space-rock vibe, but with the emphasis dedicated more to Ripley’s guitar solos. ‘Everybody Knows‘ is the final track and whilst still of the quality expected from a band of this stature,, if ever you felt they were looking for commercial acceptability, then this track would probably highlight the quest with the organ coming to the fore with its light and melodic hook.
But don’t worry -this is still classic WOODEN SHJIPS, it’s just that they have moved on a little. The only ‘selling out’ they are likely to be doing is on their forthcoming European and UK tour!
Dec 01 Utrecht, Netherlands – Tivoli (Le Guess Who Festival)
Dec 02 Copenhagen, Denmark – Pumphuset
Dec 03 Berlin, Germany – Berghain
Dec 04 Cologne, Germany – King Georg
Dec 06 Brussels, Belgium – Les Atelier Claus
Dec 07 Metz, France – Les Trinitaires
Dec 08 Paris, France – Point Ephemere
Dec 09 Brighton, UK – Audio
Dec 10 London, UK – Scala
Dec 11 Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club
Dec 12 Glasgow, UK – SWG3
Dec 13 Belfast, UK – Menagerie
Dec 14 Dublin, Ireland – The Grand Social
(‘Back To Land’ is released through Thrill Jockey Records on 11th November 2013)