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Woods Family Creeps - Woods Family Creeps

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Artist: Woods Family Creeps

Album: Woods Family Creeps

Label: Time-Lag

Review date: Mar. 27, 2008

Outsider Brooklyn folk-pop duo Woods makes music so deceptively simple, it is downright frustrating. The apparent ease they have in making each hummable chorus paired with the lo-fi production is infectious. Each time their 2007 release At Rear House comes to an end, I can't help but be a little ticked off that I am listening to the music rather than creating it myself. It just appears to be so simplistic at the hands of the Fuck It Tapes masterminds that anyone with a little music training could be concocting these catchy verse-chorus-verse ditties. It's similar to the feeling you get when listening to a Pixies record: "Really? No one before 1987 thought of utilizing loud-quiet-loud dynamics in a three-minute pop-rock song? No one at all? "

Obviously, it speaks loudly of the songwriting skills these do-it-yourselfers possess – it's as if they reside on some outlaying branch of the Buddy Holly lineage. But it's not solely about the poppy campfire sing-alongs; they also have an undeniable attraction to rural psychedelia and outcast experimentation. Snickering right outside each of those cute choruses is the ability to manipulate the bittersweet folk into grooves of ghoulish clamor. Remember, their cassette-only label has released rare material from Magik Markers, D Yellow Swans, Excepter and Sunburned to name a few; these kids know their noise as much as their novelty.

The latest release from the small collective finds Woods expanding in both name and membership. The self-titled debut of Woods Family Creeps bends more to the experimental side of the established sound. Sure, there are still moments of ridiculously catchy folk-pop splendor, but the trio now seems more interested in exploring the outer edges. Instead of simply emphasizing Jeremy Earl's humble falsetto and cooed choruses with a lilting acoustic groove, they detune electric guitars that creep and crawl in a field of tape hiss and dead grass. As the percussion rattles like branches teased by a menacing breeze, the one-time campfire sing-alongs have been replaced by eerie ghost stories and unsettling woodland sounds. Creeps indeed.

The balance between the catchy and the creepy tunes is well adjusted. "Creeps Collage,” "Twisted Tongue,” "Howling on Howling" and "Spike" would all fit comfortably on At Rear House. Earl's vocal melodies and lyrical absurdities definitely stem from the Frank Black school of songwriting: "You watch the disappearing tracks / She's spittin' moth blood on your neck / Trade your lover for another lover / You've been told you are a mother fucker.” On the other hand, a track like "Family" – seven minutes of lo-fi backwoods psych – wouldn't be uncomfortable in a Jandek songbook. The contiguous nature of these two approaches keeps the album intriguing, and the subdued attitude keeps it from alienating their less exploratory fan base.

So why pay attention to Woods and not one of the other thousand lo-fi bedroom strummers and weirdo folksters? The answer is somewhere in their balance of sincerity and goofiness. Woods Family Creeps has no placeholder on the runaway Animal Collective bandwagon nor does it stink of self-indulgence and overwrought maturity. Instead, it sounds like they could be your downstairs neighbors. Grab a beer and a seat in the corner, because what better way to spend the evening than listening to friends stumble through their charming tunes in front of their tiny devoted audience of one.

By Michael Ardaiolo

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