SF’s Wooden Shjips might be the most aggressively passive band around. Put ‘em on a single (7”, 10”, 12” … they’ve conquered ‘em all), and their sweetly apathetic psychedelic grooves conquer all they survey. I’ve seen DJs make every head in the room nod when one of their tracks hits the decks. “I Hear the Vibrations,” off their latest single on Mexican Summer, is one such track. “Shrinking Moon for You,” from their debut 10”, is another.
So what is it that makes Wooden Shjips’ proper full-lengths such exercises in tedium? Clearly, this is a band capable of doing … well, at least one thing as good as anyone else around can. Theirs is a proud space rock, unburdened by the labor of masculinity that brought down Kyuss, Pantera and Ted Nugent, leaning instead towards the peaceful androids of German progressive rock as a spiritual guide. You get the sense that these guys are still having a good time with it, even in the wake of all the attention that’s been drawn to them. If you’re the type who cares about what music you put into your body, you’re stoked for these guys because they’re the type of band you want to see succeed. They bring good vibes, which is very important if you only have one song. And, more or less, that’s the story with Wooden Shjips. If you hear it – the boxy, competent rhythm section that chips in on the melodies; the heavily distorted guitars alight with frenzied soloing; the echoing, breathy vocals on occasion – and you like it, you’ll probably like all of it. They have their hand on the dimmer switch as well, but the consistency of the rhythm reminds you that these guys are mastering a style of music, which includes indulging in the occasional diminshed chord. For many reasons, it’s very cool to behold.
Maybe that’s where the drive to “do something else” is coming from. It doesn’t suit them that well just yet, at least not on Dos. “Fallin’” covers nearly 12 minutes of organ rinkydink, skirted by limp guitar that stays as close to the beat as possible. Both “For So Long” and “Aquarium Time” sound like they would fit on an earlier Iggy Pop solo record, the latter she-boppin’ across several minutes of static hipshake. Opener “Motorbike” attempts to throw everything they have in at the same time, and there’s not enough headroom in the recording to adequately bring every element in the mix to clarity. These songs might work better alone, but as a collection, it’s kind of exhausting.
Especially when the center cut, called “Down By the Sea,” marks a milestone – over 10 minutes of rip-shit, stanky caveman beat, the second half of which is occupied by guitar solos so blistering it could be Japanese. It’s the consistency you remember, yet you’re still wondering how they got there at the end, even though so little has changed about the song. It’s a very strong encapsulation of all their strengths. And it could have been a single!
People I have talked to about this record say it’s great for porch hangs, making dinner and footbag, amongst other recreational activities. If you put Dos on, then do something else that demands more of your attention. You’ll feel better about whatever it is that you’re doing. That’s as ringing of an endorsement as I can muster.