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Wooden Shjips - Vol 1

  by Dominic B. Simpson

published: 11 / 8 / 2008

Wooden Shjips - Vol 1
Label: Holy Mountain
Format: CD


Innovative and triumphant psychedelic space rock on compilation of early material from San Francisco-based group, Wooden Shjips

The first thing that strikes you about San Francisco’s Wooden Shjips is that moniker - not a typo, as the band insisted they wanted something “Scandinavian sounding” in an interview. The next thing that strikes you about this collection of an early EP and two singles is when the simple bass motif of 'Shrinking Moon For You' explodes into the song’s feedback-drenched fuzz: have a re-united Spacemen 3 been secretly operating here under a different name ? Not that Wooden Shjips are derivative: instead, the band distil the best of Sonic Boom and Jason Pierce’s influential outfit; their antecedents the Velvet Underground, the Seeds, the Stooges and the 13th Floor Elevators; Neu! and Can; and others such as Loop, early Stereolab, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. The ghost of NYC’s primitive electro legends Suicide, too, can be heard, Alan Vega’s warped vocals and Martin Rev’s hypnotic, one-chord organ and chugging beat echoed in much of here. Take 'Death’s Not Your Friend' as an example: propelled on a chugging keyboard mantra and gnarly riff, it sounds like a lo-fi, more fuzzed-out update on the Modern Lovers’ 'Roadrunner' (heavily bearded singer Ripley Johnson’s vocals even sounds – perhaps unintentionally - like Jonathan Richman). With it’s droning guitar, minimal Mo Tucker-like rhythms, repetitive organ riffs and Johnson’s vocals distorted and echoed through many effects (manipulated by keyboard player Nash Whalen), it’s easy to pass the band off as in thrall to the kind of psychedelic drone-rock that’s worshipped by a like-minded San Francisco scene that also gave us the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Yet Wooden Shjips have a sound of their own that works brilliantly, and there is something innovative about 'Vol.1' too, particularly with the collage of backwards voice samples on 'Space Clothes', and the hypnotic keyboard on 'Clouds Over Earthquake', which sounds both futuristic and strangely nostalgic in a manner that watching the film 'Blade Runner' today can only convey. The band make sense live too, with a recent gig at the London Cargo showcasing singer and guitarist Johnson’s talent, in which the logic of his treated vocals and shimmering guitar makes more sense. The band’s throbbing groove can take on a heavy edge live, suggesting even fellow Californian’s Comets on Fire and hinting at another spiritual antecedent, Hawkwind (though Wooden Shjips remain more subdued than either). Yet the band’s lineage remains particularly Californian, echoing the Doors and Jefferson Airplane’s obsession with drugs and the frontiers of the mind as echoed in mind-expanding music and the desert plains of that county. This is music that likes to take it’s time; hence the album closer, the ten-minute plus 'SOL ’07', which despite it’s murky production (far too quiet), finishes the album triumphantly.

Track Listing:-
1 Shrinking Moon for You
2 Death's Not Your Friend
3 Space Clothes
4 Clouds Over Earthquake
5 Dance, California (Radio Edit)
6 SOL '07

Band Links:-

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live reviews

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 18/4/2010
Helen Tipping watches American garage act Wooden Shjips play a 60's and 70's prog/psychedelic-influenced set inf front of an ecstatic and packed audience at the Leeds Brudenell
Borderline, London, 19/8//2009

digital downloads



Back to Land (2013)
Superb and surprisingly acoustic-influenced fourth album from psychedelic San Francisco-based band, Wooden Shjips
Dos (2009)
Wooden Shjips (2007)

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