Wooden Shjips: West
Throughout the years I’ve been listening to Wooden Shjips I’ve always felt a little bit sad for the drummer: despite obviously putting a lot of effort into the metronomic beats that act as foundations for the swirling eddies that characterise the Shjips sound, it’s as if he’s been recorded either a) at the bottom of a wheelie bin; b) encased in samples in a carpet factory; or c) somewhere deep inside a pea-souper of a San Francisco fog. With West, however, and with Sonic Boom on mastering duties, finally the drums can be heard and more or less relished. In other words, West is the slickest, most accomplished and least DIY sounding album/collection the Shjips have produced and it sounds all the better for it.
It’s not worth pretending that West is a massive change of direction for the band – from the moment when the (audible) drums and organs kick in on opener ‘Black Smoke Rise’, after a fuzzed out riff has introduced the tune, you know what you’re going to get. Yet there are some discernable differences here that have added to the familiar template. For example, ‘Lazy Bones’ when heard in advance of the album’s release, sounded as if it was at the wrong speed for a Shjips tune. And on ‘Home’ there’s something resembling a chorus and a riff that could almost been designed to be hummed along with rather than merely absorbed. All of which renders somewhat useless the distinction I made between the Shjips and Moon Duo’s Mazes earlier this year. Oh well.
Hence West is Wooden Shjips sounding their best and serving up another a heady brew for your psyche-garage needs. Go West (other directions are available) young man (or woman, or other gender alignments) and seek your fortune (here, for example).