After a chance meeting in a vintage shoe shop in London, Argentinean guitarist Max Claps hooked up with Veronica Falls’ guitarist Andrew Hoare to form The Proper Ornaments. Since their inception back in 2010, they’ve taken it slow - releases thus far are pretty sparse, with a couple of EPs and a compilation all that has come prior to this debut.
This laidback work ethic is also evident in the music the produce. Although they incorporate plenty of lysergic laced influences (Atlas Sound, Velvet Underground, lost psych cuts on the Rubble Compilations), their approach results in a C-86 influenced jingle/jangle, melted by the mid-day sun. Even when they come up with something rousing, it’s tinted with a slight sluggishness.
Tracks such as “Gone” and “Sun” are in the vein of Bradford Cox; structured, but shambolic, with a Jim Reid inclined vocal hush, backed with evocative surf guitar twang, while the pastoral acoustica of “Ruby” shows off a nice line in druggy Wicker Man gone early Beta Band influences.
So far, so ‘67. There’s not much deviation from their intentions - it’s very much an album to kick back to - but Wooden Head comes into its own when they crank it up a bit and produce something with a little more urgency. This is best executed on “Magazine”, a song about a travelling bullet (“this magazine’s got a gun to fire/got a sight to kill”). Backed by Jim McGuinn influenced Rickenbacker guitar and further Byrdsian references with the lush vocals, it’s a fine reinterpretation of 1960’s guitar based pop.
They continue the sweet harmonising on the uplifting “Stereolab”, a track quite rightly crammed with the drone and metronomic drum patterns the band of the same name are known for, with added San Francisco psychedelic atmospherics. On “Now I Understand” they take the repetitiveness of kraturock and smooth it with mid-90’s era Teenage Fanclub vibes, while serving up brisk Americana on “Step into the Cold”, “Summer’s Gone”, and the happy death song “You’ll See”, acid tinted ballads that reference Darklands era Mary Chain merged with Chapterhouse’s criminally underrated Blood Music. They’re all exhilarating tracks.
If you loved Dromes, last year’s fine debut from Younghusband, Wooden Head is an able companion, although somewhat more introverted. Even when they perform at pace, the almost apologetic vocals, the hazy, vaguely stoned drawl, has you wishing they’d wig out, just the once, on some crazy psychotic mind expander. It doesn’t happen, but let’s not detract from the facts here, Wooden Head is a more than agreeable rethink of late sixties rock.