Wooden Shjips, a quartet from San Francisco heavily influenced by the experimentalism of psychedelia, classical minimalism, and garage rock excess, started as an experiment in rhythmic primitivism and group improvisation. The current roster brings a more structured rock approach to its performances, utilizing a traditional lineup of drums (Omar Ahsanuddin), bass (Dusty Jermier), organ (Nash Whalen), guitar (Erik Ripley Johnson), and vocals.
[Holy Mountain; 2007]
Wooden Shjips, a four-piece pysch combo from San Francisco, feature a bassist named Dusty, a guitarist named Ripley, and an organist named Nash. On their debut release for Holy Mountain, the Shjips, like the Jefferson Airplane and the Doors, tap into the California frontier sex-and-death cult mentality: drugs and murder and depravity out in the desert where nobody can see whatever it is you do when there's nobody watching. Forty years removed from their closest cousins, the Shjips have little to show for the interim-- a dash of 1970s Kraut two-note rhythm, a gauzy Spacemen 3 filter, a garage-rocked low-fi fetish.
Less blustery than the screaming California psych of Santa Cruz bros Comets on Fire, not to mention the god the two bands share, Hawkwind, Wooden Shjips still clearly care way more about rock music than some of their primitive peers. But the leather-pants-and-no-underwear mysticism that made Morrison seem like a prophet even as he uttered such wisdom as "Mother I want to yeearrrgh" has been sapped of its power to make weak the knees of men and women alike.
So the Wooden Shjips have a problem, sort of, since neither the mystique implied by their warbled and echo-y vocals nor the fourth-dimension logic required by their single-stab rhythm tracks is the siren song it used to be. They can substitute nostalgia for sex appeal, as they do on "We Ask You to Ride", an organ-squawky Doors homage, and on "Blue Sky Bends", which cops Lennon's opening gambit from "I Found Out". Or they can wind things up real tight and lean on repetition as the closest thing there is to guaranteed hypnosis, as they do on the shufflin' "Losin' Time" and "Lucy's Ride".
What the Shjips occasionally know as well is that you can do all this stuff at the same time, too, and that's when you get album closer "Shine Like Suns". Like the Pixies, "Sweet Emotion", Spacemen 3, the Velvets, Joy Division, and F/i zipped up into one shimmering undulating passage, "Shine Like Suns" is everything the rest of the record is not: dynamic, rhythmic, bright, and, at ten minutes long, not at all dull. It's the Doors' "The End" but about living instead of dying. Call it the beginning.
-Zach Baron, October 11, 2007