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Wooden Shjips – Vol. 2

"Vol. 2"

Wooden Shjips – Vol. 2
05 April 2010, 11:00 Written by Matt Poacher
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What a fine word ‘hoary’ is. Despite the vague homophonic problems, the meaning is near perfectly captured by the sound of the word: something ancient and gnarled yet oddly familiar. It’s the perfect word for describing Wooden Shjips’ sound, which is an archaic snub-nosed fuzzy roar that sounds older than its antecedents: The Doors, The Stooges, The Grateful Dead, Suicide. Even the dampened space-rock elements sound like impossibly old throwbacks. Consequently, Vol. 2, which collects a bunch of extra-album material and live tracks from the last couple of years, sounds exactly as you’d expect. Which is no bad thing really”¦Dos, which came out last year, despite that motorik tendency to unravel forever, was a tight wee beast ”“ all coiled rhythms and whirling farfisa organs. It had a completeness about it. Vol. 2 by its nature is a far more sprawling record, and as such doesn’t have the same rigidity of vision. But its hit and miss character allows for moments of clarity where the Shjips sounds reaches a kind of apotheosis. Take the live version of set staple ‘Death’s Not Your Friend’ (which first appeared in 2008 on a split 7” with The Heads). It’s a blistering take, and is ”“ if this doesn’t sound like stating the obvious - something close to a Shjips signature tune. It’s an archetypal psych freakout in many ways, with the rhythm section of Dusty Jermier on bass and drummer Omar Ahsanuddin locking into a groove with the more understated organ of Nash Whalen and providing a space for Ripley Johnson to howl up a storm with his wall of buzzing guitar.Their version of Neil Young’s ‘Vampire Blues’ (from On the Beach) is another such moment. It takes the original’s Doors-like heat stroke and ramps it up, giving it an unstoppable groove. ‘Start to Dreaming’ alters the pitch slightly, starting at a slow narcotic lope before reaching the more traditional Shjips canter. It’s built from the usual tools: the fuzzed Ripley guitars, the echo-laden vocals, the blare of the organ, the rhythm section sounding like a peat-buried oak. It’s a towering thing.Vol. 2 is a great addition to what is fast becoming a healthy catalogue of bleary grooves. And what with Johnson’s mighty Moon Duo side project, and a mooted new Shjips album on the way, there seems to be a good deal of life in this sound yet. Let the hoary beast have its way”¦
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