Stereo, Glasgow, Sat 17 Apr 2010
‘The three Rs: repetition, repetition, repetition’. Wooden Shjips may not sound anything like The Fall, but they’ve taken the words of that curmudgeonly visionary Mark E Smith to heart. When Ripley Johnson’s hairy band of travellers strike up a riff they stick to it. Fundamentally, this is 60s garage-psych: all two-chord riffs and vaguely sinister organ, but the Shjips take it up a notch with motorik rhythms and heady cosmic vibes. A sea of nodding heads attests to the hypnotic power of their sound.
Picking out highlights is almost beside the point. There are some nice variations on the basic formula – ‘Fallin’’ sounds like Roxy Music’s ‘Virginia Plain’ given a Krautrock makeover, while the spaghetti Western atmospherics of ‘For So Long’ suggest a bong-addled Calexico – but ultimately it all comes down to that spacey groove. But for all the psychedelic trappings, it never really takes off. Johnson’s other outfit, Moon Duo, derange the senses by sounding like rogue cyborgs channeling Japanese underground rock. Wooden Shjips are altogether more comforting, and where’s the fun in that?