WOODEN SHJIPS – Wooden Shjips (Holy Mountain)

Like The Black Angels and Miracle Fortress, this is another album that I was encouraged to try after reading a review in NME, and once again they have come up trumps. Hailing from San Francisco, the band obviously still think that it is 1969, and it is none more evident than on the first track on this five song mini-album. ‘We Ask You To Ride’ starts off as a fairly normal drone-fuelled slacker piece with a sub-Jim Morrison vocal, but about a minute and a half in - just as you start to drift off – the guitars kick in with such a ferocity that you are literally stunned by the sonic attack, and you just know that this is going to be a great album. ‘Losin’ Time’ is more of the same, with a Spacemen 3 groove, fuzzed up vocal and more great guitar, and ‘Lucy’s Ride’ has an echo-drenched vocal and slightly more laid-back guitar, but is just as good as the rest. The seven minute ‘Blue Sky Bends’ is taken at a leisurely pace over an insistent bassline, with the guitars evident right from the beginning, but getting more deranged as the songs progresses. The best is saved for last, though, with the sprawling ten minute ‘Shine Like Suns’ using every trick in the book to pummel the listener into submission. Reverb, echo, feedback, and droning guitar are all employed to make this the most psychedelic track on the album. When the five tracks are over, and you have recovered enough to think straight, you realise that you want more, and the band have even thought of that for you. Included with the album is another six track CD of, I would assume, demos and singles. The quality is not quite as high as the main album, although ‘Clouds Over Earthquake’ and ‘Shrinking Moon For You’ acquit themselves well. ‘Dance, California’ is a pounding instrumental which is available in two versions, with the radio edit being just too good to ever get on the radio, but ‘Death’s Not Your Friend’ is a frantic garage rocker which sounds a bit out of place amongst the rest of the guitar freakouts. ‘Space Clothes’ is an odd experimental piece with backwards vocals interspersed with stabs of sound, and the full eight minute version of ‘Dance, California’ rounds off the disc with a vengeance – a riffing monster of a track. Yet another winner for the NME - and for American bands, who continue to produce stunning music like this that you just wouldn’t hear from groups in this country.