Wooden Shjips - "Dance, California (Radio Edit)" (Volume 1)
Anachronism aside, it’s easy to imagine the dudes in Wooden Shjips as kids flipping out while watching Pete Townsend introduce intentional guitar feedback to living rooms across America during The Who’s early TV appearances. This is not to imply naïveté, but to recall the spirit in which the band chases one of the most basic pleasures of rock n’ roll: raucous guitar squeal. Wooden Shjips don’t fuck with structure much, going straight for their catharsis. Mostly it’s like this: maybe a one-beat count in, the establishment of a groove and a low-end ostinato riff built for endless repeat, and then fuzz jam ad infinitim. Things don’t complicate from there and don’t really need to as the target is usually hit within the first 20 seconds of a song and only continues to be obliterated over the duration.
Vol. 1 is a collection of Wooden Shjips’ vinyl singles. The Shrinking Moon for You 10” has been long sold out after its run of 300 was given out for free (and now fetch $100 plus on EBay). The song – maybe the band’s best – features a Kraut-cum-hips groove and guitar oscillating between blistering squeal and low-frequency breakup, reminiscent of legendary Japan psychsters Les Rallizes Denudes. “Dance, California (Radio Edit)” from the 7” of the same name is another highlight, built out of a Steppenwolf-style riff and Middle Eastern-vibing staccato soloing. The “SOL ’07” 7” is the final component. It’s title track mixes it up with some heavily echoed vocals and trumpet, but at 10 minutes is overlong for a song built from a single phrase.
In a sort of paradox, Vol. 1, as a collection of singles, showcases the band’s best work, but finds itself limited as an LP statement. Little figurative license need be taken to say that Wooden Shjips are a one-note act (“Death’s Not Your Friend” contains the only real chord progression on the record). As individual tracks, these distill infectious psych bliss. But the record lacks the range of gears its length requires. This is great as a catch-all for one of today’s most exciting psych-rock acts, but we’ll probably have to wait for the next studio full-length to see just how much of that promise will be realized.