9/5/11

Wooden Shjips

Wooden Shjips. Photo by Paul Carlin
Been digging psychedelic drone rock band Wooden Shjips for some time now. They play a cool blend of Stooges/Suicide/Spacemen 3 style rock music with a distinct touch of 60's psychedelia. It's not retro for the sake of retro, but the music invokes those aspects in the present and sends them of into the future.

Before we go any further I first and foremost have to direct your attention towards their absolutely amazing song "Down By The Sea", which just might be their best one so far. Do your self a favor and immerse yourself in the full near-eleven minutes of this glorious piece of freaked out psychedelia: 
 
The song is a great example of the band's music: droning organs, repetitive cyclical grooves, spacey vocals and incendiary guitar work. The music has some almost static qualities to it, but it's never boring. It's dynamic and interesting at the same time. Quite an enveloping listening experience.

We saw Wooden Shjips at last year's Roskilde where I also bought their self-titled debut and sophomore album Dos (contains the bit of awesome in the clip above) on vinyl. They're playing at Loppen - my favorite live venue here in Copenhagen - on Saturday. Reeeeeally looking forward to it.

The band's third effort West is out now and this great review in The Guardian pointed me in the direction of the band's namesake "Wooden Ships", a cool Crosby Stills & Nash song from 1969:

Lyrics:
Stills: If you smile at me, I will understand
'Cause that is something everybody everywhere does
in the same language.
Crosby: I can see by your coat, my friend,
you're from the other side,
There's just one thing I got to know,
Can you tell me please, who won?
Stills: Say, can I have some of your purple berries?
Crosby: Yes, I've been eating them for six or seven weeks now,
haven't got sick once.
Stills: Probably keep us both alive.

Wooden ships on the water, very free and easy,

Easy, you know the way it's supposed to be,
Silver people on the shoreline, let us be,
Talkin' 'bout very free and easy...
Horror grips us as we watch you die,
All we can do is echo your anguished cries,
Stare as all human feelings die,
We are leaving - you don't need us.

Go, take your sister then, by the hand,

lead her away from this foreign land,
Far away, where we might laugh again,
We are leaving - you don't need us.

And it's a fair wind, blowin' warm,

Out of the south over my shoulder,
Guess I'll set a course and go...


What a great song with a fascinating series of photos to go with it. All the photos are from the year 1969. The hippies were really on to something. There must have been an amazing vibe in the air back then. Hearing this song and watching the images in the video made me smile. Imagine...

The lyrics have an eerie darkness to them though, and seem to hint at a post-apocalyptic scenario where civilization as we know it has been destroyed. Heavy stuff, and yet there seems to be hope in the distance. Wooden Ships might sail us off into the horizon. The song was re-recorded in 1970 by Jefferson Airplane.
Album cover for West by Wooden Shjips
The interplay between being aware of the darkness while also pointing towards the possibility of hope is precisely one of the main themes that are perceivable in the music of Wooden Shjips.

They seem fascinated by California and "the West" as a concept (just look at that cover image of the Golden Gate bridge spanning the opening of the San Fransisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean) but they're not naively worshipping the psychedelic culture.
 Here's a video clip from The Drone where guitarist/singer/leader Erik "Ripley" Johnson explains what the band is out to do, interspersed with live footage:

So yeah. Great stuff. I've already posted one song from their 2nd album, so I'll finish this off with one song from the debut and one from the new one. First, the debut:

"We Ask You To Ride" is the opening track on Wooden Shjips and it shows the band when it's at its most stripped down and stark:

And last but not least; a song from the new one. This one is called "Lazy Bones". It's upbeat and cool. Go check out Wooden Shjips if they play in your town. We will be at Loppen on Saturday night -  cool Danish kraut jam rockers Causa Sui will be the supporting act - and I've got a feeling it's going to be a great night!