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  • West
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Ripley Johnson is a very busy lad holding down two jobs firstly with the San Francisco noise merchants Moon Duo! and also having a rare old level of fun with the psychedelic garage outfit Wooden Shjips. You may have heard them recently doing a Marc Riley 6 Session where they played versions of the stoner epics "Black Smoke Rise" and "Flight". Like an over excited form teacher your reviewer marked them down for great things. It was like a hybrid of the Secret Machines meets the Doors and a wonderful slice of space rock that Riley could happily describe without any hint of irony as "far out"!

On the evidence of "West" their first properly recorded studio album there is plenty more in the space shuttle tank. Much has been made of the bands debt to British drone rock pioneers "Loop" but frankly another hundred influences could be easily be delineated not least a sly nod towards the current uber obsession for many new bands the great German outfit Neu. What is the case is quite how good and accessible "West" is, despite the fact that the way the album is mixed leads you to question whether the drummers microphone next to his kit was turned off when it was recorded. Let us stress that this is a fuzzy guitar album par excellence but one that is so acid fired it could burn through a thick metal plate. In this sense while there are only seven tracks present at around 35 minutes it will leave you feeling musically full and sated. Starting points should be two central songs firstly the commercial "Lazy Bones" which starts off with a huge riff until a keyboard sneaks in and hey presto it's "the Cramps in orbit". This murky rock'n'roll married to huge guitar psychedelic guitar lines works perfectly as does Johnson's vocals, which portray not one jot of emotion or warmth. In the aforementioned "Flight" the band have produced an almost Spacemen 3 style anthem which starts by cheekily borrowing a slowed down version of the riff from Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" before bending different shapes over its seven minute plus trail of destruction. Keyboards and bass mix here to form a progressive extravaganza that should demand your attention, not least with guitar wig out that Josh Pearson could have happily slotted onto the Texas Jerusalem Crossroads.

With all this distortion/ feedback flying about some acknowledgement of Neil Young is entirely in order and comes in "Home" with a riff that takes a Crazy Horse guitar coda and thrashes the living daylights out of it. All in all its truly wondrous stuff and therefore rather sad to report a large misstep that comes on the last track "Rising". Ever since John Lennon did that backward guitar part on "Tomorrow never knows" every band with access to a studio seems to think it mandatory to try out the soundboard and produce an updated masterpiece. Alas while it's all very clever it doesn't really add that much to the earlier fireworks and detracts from the bands front facing dynamism. So it goes - we should be grateful for what has gone before and should you tire of track seven leave the CD on repeat and skip back to the brilliant echoed keyboard driven opener "Black Smoke Rise" which sounds like the Charlatans on crystal meth.

"West" is very much a surprise package. This is an album that could trouble the charts albeit entering at 189 and peaking at that. But the key point is that Wooden Shjips have produced an album of real galactic grandeur and depth while at the same time managing to infuse it with a dirty rock n roll sensibility. True it unravels in parts but that adds to its charm. Hold on a charming scuzzy space rock album, is that possible? The answer is yes and its called "West" by Wooden Shjips.
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on 26 May 2013
needs a few listens to take you beyond the initial joy of the noise (which is great, but obviously repetitive - that's the point) to what's in the songs. I've enjoyed it more each time I listen.
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on 20 October 2011
Oh my goodness! I've been waiting a long, long time for a band like this!
I discovered Wooden Shjips by chance this year and have acquired their previous four CD album releases so I was looking forward to listening to 'West'. Having listened to it I'm pleased to say it has exceeded expectations; in fact I'd say this is their best so far. Why? More of the same but even better. How many times have you wished bands you liked had remained playing the same stuff? You know all those 'I like their early stuff' kind of bands you once liked. No fear of that with Wooden Shjips. Nothing wrong with change but when a formula works so well why change it?
If you have never heard Wooden Shjips and have a taste for hypnotic repetitive fuzz drone riffs or you like bands like Hawkwind, Loop, Spacemen 3 (Sonic Boom helped master 'West'), early Stereolab ('I like their early stuff...'), Suicide and Neu! then do yourself a big favour and get hold of 'West. Trust me, Wooden Shjips understand this kind of music like very few bands do. You don't get a band like this come along very often. A classic band of it's type.
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on 16 September 2011
It's been a busy year for the badger-bearded psyche overlord Ripley Johnson. Not content with melting minds via his Moon Duo missives, he's also been keeping the Wooden Shjips iron firmly in fire too, and the frazzled space-rock it's produced duly blows this year's best efforts of the former straight out of the water.

Proud enough of his adopted Bay Area to emblazon the album cover with the Golden Gate Bridge, West is then, at its heart, business as usual for this collection of power-psyche pioneers. Muscular repeats and heavy cosmic grooves dominate, which, along with a fuzzed-up guitar riff and stratospheric 60s organ help lend the catchy opener "Black Smoke Rising" an outer-rings dance-floor vibe.

Added to the usual Wooden Shjips palette however we find identifiably classic rock anchors. By way of example, "Home", outside of its vocal, brings to mind Suicide thumbing through AC/DC sheet music. In turn, the patient "Flight" houses a low-in-the-mix riff ripped from the Sabbath catalogue. Decorating each sonic storm without exception, intergalactic guitar work more than makes itself known, beaming directly into the mind's third eye.

As if it were needed, acting to prove the current confidence in the Wooden Shjips camp, West's closer, "Rising", even has the balls to run entirely in reverse, clipping Johnson's vocal unintelligibly as a result. Its drums work back-to-front. That iconic fuzzy drone maintains its pitch.

It would seem mainlined psyche this single-minded works when taken from any direction: North, South, East or West.

Advised downloads: "Black Smoke Rising" and "Lazy Bones
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on 23 September 2013
I played this several times the other day and was totally captivated.
I was totally drawn into the motorik psychedelic swirl of the Wooden Shjips!. My seasoned ears can discern a veritable melting pot of influences going on within these songs:- Hawkwind ,Neu,The Doors,Spaceman 3, Crazy Horse even!. What a band!. I love 'Black Smoke Rise' which recalls Lemmy era Hawkwind in a big way for me, the other tracks are just as awesome and improve with successive plays. Forget the stress of the everyday and wallow in this album!!
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on 26 September 2011
Wooden Shjips create and weave a pleasing and enervating maelstrom of sonic delight. They do not apparently DO too much, but what they create is greater than the sum of its parts. The insistent repetition of patterns and loops in their music is overlain by soaring and meandering guitar and keyboards with almost Doors like quality. I enjoyed this album to the same degree that I did 'Dos'. To this ageing 'rock' fan they seem to wear their influences and sources of inspiration very much on their sleeves, with elements of Hawkwind and some Krautrock bands (Neu, Can etc) very much to the fore, Having caught them live at the recent 'Scala' gig, I can confirm that they are good value live also, attracting a predominantly younger audience with a fair sprinkling of older rock fans. Their bass player, whilst returning to stage to pack up some of his gear, confirmed (unless just humouring me!) that the band are fans of Hawkwind and German rock. The older rock enthusiast who liked bands such as these would not be disappointed by this album. However, I could live without the 'backwards' last track....
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on 10 July 2012
Similar to early Pink Floyd, but not as good, or Hawkwind, but in a good way, or even East of Eden, on their more boring pieces. A heavy pervasive bass /synth baseline pervades each song, overlaid by a few trippy vocals and spacey interjections. Its back to late 60s /early 70s, man. Dig those sounds from the Moog, dig those tape loops. I'm nodding off already as the thrumming unchanging background makes me wonder when something different might happen. Track 3, lazy bones, at least has a few key changes. Apart from that each track sounds much the same throughout - a rhythmless mush - and like each other. There are only seven tracks, which, by the end, is a relief.
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on 20 September 2011
If there were garages in outer space then this is what an intergalactic garage band would sound like. Recyled riffs from rocket propelled guitars, swirling nebulous organs, bleak characterless vocals, pulsating rhythms.

The first two reviewers have pretty well nailed down the obvious references with one glaring exception. Track 4 "Home" - a.k.a House of the Rising Sun. Neat.

Great played loud after you've had a few tequilas and are in an apocalyptic mood. Or if your girlfriend's just dumped you. Or both.
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on 27 March 2012
brand new to me and so pleased to meet them. they've plugged the hole left by loop. all that's left is to agree with the other reviews. i just wanted to add my voice to the psychedelic call to arms! the only disagreement with the others is with "red on black"....35 mins just ain't enough. this is like me-and-musical-doughnuts! i just wanna keep stuffing them down my earthroats(ear-throats?)
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on 31 July 2015
All Good. Many thanks!
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