Comprised of material from their earliest singles, everything from Wooden Shjips’ Volume 1 was actually written before the material on their self-titled release from last year. Unfortunately, it shows.
Wooden Shjips’ self-titled release sounds a lot like the Doors at times, but it also sounds like a modern band doing interesting things with the same dingy, drugged out, heat wave aesthetic. Volume 1 sounds like a band who found a couple interesting riffs and decided to make songs by repeating them over and over and over with a few slight changes.
“Shrinking Moon For You” and “Death’s Not Your Friend” both employ grooves that are easy to get into at first — but incredibly irritating by the 50th time you’ve heard them repeated. The Wooden Shjips use plenty of repetition on Wooden Shjips, but everything else going on is enough to keep the songs interesting. Here, it’s hard to tell if it’s a case of a poor mixing job that’s putting the wrong sections of the song at the forefront, or just uninteresting songs. The third song, “Space Clothes,” is simply a bunch of odd effects applied to voice, which is okay, but not worth listening to more than a couple times.
Wooden Shjips redeem themselves with the the last three tracks, but the listener might have to force themselves to even get that far, and even though the actual songs improve, the quality is still a little rough. “Clouds Over Earthquake” is one of best tracks on Volume 1, with some seriously old-sounding effects. It’s really heavy, thick and synthesized, giving the song a ’70s or ’80s prog touch — especially when the deep female voice comes in. The garage rock feel of “Dance, California (Radio Edit)” helps it shine above most of what else is on Volume 1, but doesn’t quite get to the same level of Wooden Shjips. “SOL ’07” finds the band blending hints of brass with a quick pace carried by a warm, fuzzed out guitar, coming together in a way that makes one think of a drive into Mexico. It’s a fitting way to end Volume 1, because it’s the most Doors-inspired track, and the first song on their self-titled album is their other most Doors-influenced work. Playing this back to back with Wooden Shjips — in the order of their composition (Volume 1 first then Wooden Shjips) — makes perfect sense.
Volume 1 is an interesting listen for anyone who’s really adamant about this band. It sheds light on their origins, and is a handy release for those who couldn’t find the 7″ and 10″ records that some of these songs are on. For casual fans, however, or anyone who’s compelled enough to want to give Wooden Shjips a shot, it’s probably best to stick to the self-titled album — or get this and only listen to the second half.