, April 1st, 2010 09:15
With the 21st century well under way, there's a strange comfort to be found in the way psychedelia still holds a mystical allure for space cadets of all hues. Granted, some of the more high-profile efforts of late have been left wanting somewhat, but for every mindblower attempting to storm the mainstream, you can set your watch by another effort from the subterranean underbelly showing how things should be done. Ergo San Francisco's Wooden Shjips, a band that doesn't so much set the controls for the heart of the sun as jam them in place to ensure a one-way trip.
Wooden Shjips are clearly subscribers to the theory that anything containing more than three chords is jazz. Their adherence to this theory has led them to scale back to the degree that one chord, one note or one riff is quite enough to be going on with, thank you very much. And more power to them, for this is a band that utterly revels in the sheer stupidity that minimalist lysergic rock has to offer.
Originally designed to be an output for non-musicians, Wooden Shjips manage to do much with very little. So it is that Vol. 2 is a fine collection of rarities, foreign label releases and tour souvenir cuts that acts as a pit stop until these cosmic rough riders propel their next full-length album through your third eye to mainline straight to your addled brain.
The circular groove of 'Loose Lips' sets the template for what's to follow as layer upon layer of wah-wah guitar is force fed through phasers, flangers and whatever other instruments of sonic vandalism are at hand while elsewhere, the live rendition of 'Death's Not Your Friend' achieves the almost disturbing yet admirable feat of fusing garage primitivism with motorik beats and something that resembles a political rally (assuming that you've aligned yourself with Freak Power).
Of particular interest are the two cover versions that appear here. Neil Young's 'Vampire Blues' is fed a cocktail of powerfully hallucinogenic love drugs to be virtually unrecognisable but without losing any of the potency of the source material and Serge Gainsbourg's 'Contact' is so way off the scale it's difficult not imagine its author sat on a celestial cloud enjoying a chuckle through a haze of Gauloises smoke as he recalls his own radical reggae re-working of 'La Marseillaise'.
Short of using the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a guide to the ultimate goal of ego death while fusing the mind to the oneness of the universe, Vol. 2 provides all the necessary stimulation you need.