For a short week it’s been a loooong week. It always happens with having Mondays off. By Wednesday you’re like “Man, it’s Wednesday already! That’s great!”, then by Thursday you’re like “Jesus, it’s only Thursday?? What the hell, this week’s dragging, man!” It never fails. I haven’t had much time to put the digital pen to digital paper. I even grabbed the new Wilco record and I haven’t been able to spin it more than twice(it really needs some serious headphone time I think.) The week has been blazingly hot, the kids have been sneezing and coughing, and I’ve been a little on the congested side. It’s just been kind of a post-3 day weekend bummer, really.
So this rainy, foggy Friday morning was needing some Wooden Shjips.
I think I got into the San Francisco quartet back in early 2012 when I picked up their Vol. 2 on a whim at Neat Neat Neat Records’ RSD celebration. That album really got to me with it’s drone-y, psychedelic take on blues and groove-oriented music. “Contact” and “I Hear The Vibrations” especially stuck out. On a trip out west I picked up well, West, and their self-titled debut. While I dig West, the earlier records are where its at for me. They’re raw, trance-like blues motifs that repeat themselves over and over until they’ve wormed into your brain. There is a West Coast, San Fran vibe, but not of the Haight-Ashbury variety. It’s more in tune with the darker 70s burnt out acid trip; no peace-loving hippies but buzzed, grizzled bikers looking into the abyss, lighting up a smoke, and not blinking an eye.
The debut album is pretty much all you need if you want to get the essence of Ripley Johnson’s main gig. There’s no swanky solos or emotive singing. “We Ask You To Ride” is a single groove that takes you on a dark magic carpet ride. “Losin’ Time” is like The Doors stuck in a groove and never quite leave it, while “Lucy’s Ride” sounds like ZZ Top on quaaludes and fronted by Alan Vega. “Blue Sky Bends” sounds like some guys in the garage on a Saturday night banging about after one too many Red Stripes and homegrown. In other words, it’s joyously simple to the point of transcendence. “Shine Like Suns” is the beautiful 10-minute closer that glides along on a wavering organ and buzzing guitars.
I think what I love so much about the self-titled, as well as Dos, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 is the simplicity there. There’s no fussing over intricate lines, convoluted lyrics, or some great concept. This is music you zone out to while your buzzing(that substance is up to you…for me, a great cup of coffee will do.) It’s all very space-y, hallucinogenic, and in some respects doom-laden…but in the best way! I feel with Vol. 2 they began to sonically tighten things up and they found that rich, dense rhythm section they would become. Later records like West and Back To Land, while great in their own right, felt too fussed over at times. The “hit record and lets see where it goes” aspect seemed to wain a bit. But still, top shelf grooves nonetheless.
So yeah, that’s what I’m listening to on a gloomy, balmy Friday morning. We’ll get rid of these blahs yet. Until then, I think I’ll hit repeat.