Back to Land
Nov 11, 2013 Web Exclusive
Ripley Johnson and Omar Ahsanuddin of Wooden Shjips recently abandoned San Francisco for more Oregonian pastures. Their latest, therefore, is 50% more donut and 50% less burrito. Both can exact their toll, slowing down near-frenetic jams, swinging them a little. Here: perhaps a little more glaze.
Maybe it's the negative space—the donut hole. Peer through it and you'll see Jonathan Richman hanging out with mortal enemy Hippie Johnny. Suddenly he's committing to oceans of vocal echo, hunched over 37 effects pedals, now a militant supporter of stretching it out another 16 measures, or 32, or, fuck it—256, because drill one of these lock-grooves directly into the brainstem and you always have something visceral. Better yet, stir them up in fuzz and distortion—the thick, frothy stuff. Serve up a sonic milkshake, ride that shit out, and let it ebb and flow. No riff is too inelastic to go galactic.
Opener "Back to Land" bounces along with precisely that sort of altered late-era Velvet Underground stomp, the Shjips having effectively mastered it at this point. "Other Stars," for its part, is a galloper—pounding out the triplets while a phased-out guitar eats the mix. "Servants" goes all dark and minor, reminiscent of Hair and Skin Trading Company, which three people—high five—might notice. But this stuff is resolutely free of any post-punk geometry, blazing along less self-consciously and more indebted elsewhere: Northern Cali's long psychedelic history, everywhere else's long psychedelic history, or Neil Young at his most burnt-out (take a peek at closer "Everybody Knows," which would earn this mention by title alone if it didn't earn it sonically). It's the trickling-down of dusty record bins everywhere, reduced to simple essence and repeated till it hurts. (www.woodenshjips.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 9/10