Ripley Johnson and his bearded friends in Wooden Shjips have made a name for themselves as master purveyors of psychedelic stoner rock. A mix of heavy drone, motorik beats, and a healthy dose of 60s garage rock blues these Bay area fuzz Gods have been putting out stellar albums for years now. Back To Land is a continuation of the upwards trend they’ve created since their last great long player, West.
The formula remains on this new album. Find a groove and lock into it. Allow Mr. Johnson to lay down some tasty riffage and float along as if carried by some THC-flavored cloud. These guys aren’t changing much in the sound, but they’ve honed in on their strengths and have created a dense, bluesy, druggy sound that you can’t penetrate. “Back To Land” starts out all fun and good times, but quickly gives into that hazy darkness on “Ruins”, which is like cross between The Doors and NEU! “Ghouls” has a hard driving beat and trippy echoed vocals with a Farfisa organ in the background. It’s hard to pinpoint or explain a band like Wooden Shjips. Anything I say will not do this band justice. It’s like explaining a rainbow to someone who’s never had sight. It needs to be experienced. But explain I must, for that is my job here.
With every crazy, fuzzed-out rocker there’s always a lighter poppier song just lingering around the corner. “These Shadows” is one of those songs. It sounds like something Neil Young might’ve written with Buffalo Springfield. It’s got that underlying organ with strummed acoustic accompanied by some low end fuzz for good measure. It’s a great song that would sound good plugged or unplugged. “In The Roses” is a motorik/boogie hybrid that will make you put the pedal to the metal(if you’re driving, that is.)The album closes on another lighter song, albeit melancholy in comparison to the Shjips tried and true sound. “Everybody Knows” is a minor key song with a feel of tragedy to it, and a longing in Johnson’s voice not heard on any previously released albums. It’s a decidedly different note to end the album on, but not a disappointing one in any shape or form.
As far as krautrockin’, boogie woogie, psych rock goes Back To Land is top tier. Johnson and company don’t disappoint. And like most great albums, this is a grower. Put on the headphones, drop the needle, spin, repeat.
7.6 out of 10