It took me a few listens to get my head around the psychedelic madness of Wooden Shjips' eponymous EP. This crazy slice of reverb pie made me have the sudden urge to put on my best mod apparel, hop on a Vespa and cruise angrily around town. That is what makes this San Francisco group a bit of a mind fuck. Infusing pysch and garage rock with a bit of mod frosting might taste a bit odd at first, but in the end the aftertaste is quite delicious.
To help ease into the album, Wooden Shjips start off with the somewhat easy to digest "We Ask You To Ride." It is lo-fi, with a slinky bass line and a creepy circus organ that brings Jonathan Fire Eater to mind. If that band doesn't ring a bell, search for them on the interwebs. You can thank me later. While the vocals remain minimal and pushed to the back, Erik "Ripley" Johnson's dead on Jim Morrison delivery is chilling. Once he launches into an acid-fueled guitar solo, just close your eyes and enjoy the ride.
"Losin' Time" drops any danceable mod flavor for a dirty, fuzzy, droaned out vibe that would work right along with Austin's Black Angels. It is that great combination of old school metal and psych rock blended together in a haze of guitar solos that shows their talent in both minimalism and improvisation. The repetitiveness of the melodic line carried by Nash Whalen's organ, Dusty Jermier's bass and Johnson's guitar is insanely trance inducing.
The five song EP concludes with "Shine Like Suns," taking us on a ten-minute journey through the Velvet Underground realm of drone rock. The steady pulse of the bass focuses on a single note, while the organ and guitar never drift far from that central location. When Johnson's guitars add a layer of distortion, causing the song to grow in intensity, I'm almost reminded of bits and pieces of Spiritualized, if Jason Pierce had gone lo-fi and listened to The Doors for days and days.
While I doubt that Wooden Shjips will get frequent listens on my headphones, I'm glad it is here when the desire to space out calls upon me. They have definitely captured my attention, and I am curious to see what this San Francisco quartet could do with a full album. Now if you'll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to throw on an Andy Warhol film.
"We Ask You To Ride"