It’s weird how these things happen. Maybe it was the Led Zeppelin III-style artwork that originally attracted my eye, but a middling review on Pitchfork turned into an album I can’t imagine living without.
I did what I usually do these days. I found the album on Spotify, listened to it enough times to know it was a classic, then went down to my local record shop and bought the thing. Spotify, for all its benefits, only pays its artists tenths of pennies per song. Please: if you like a band you hear on Spotify, go out and buy the album. Musicians gotta eat too. Plus, the great thing about listening to actual albums in your car is that no one on Facebook will ever know that you played it (or Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” No comment) like a million times.
There’s nothing really new here. Chord progressions, as one reviewer put it, rarely progress past two. The rhythm section of Dusty Jermier on bass and Omar Ahsanuddin on drums, along with the ghostly drone coming from Nash Whalen’s organ, exist mostly to lay down a thick shag carpet of sound for guitarist and vocalist Ripley Johnson’s buried vocals and poignant, piercing solos. The album was recorded in Portland, Oregon and I swear you can hear the rain and damp earth in the mix. And speaking of damp earth, did I mention the beard?
I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the state of Maine who’s reading Coover’s The Origin of the Brunists right now, and I would bet my good right eye that the speakers of my Mazda 3 were the only ones from which Back To Land was pouring on his morning commute. So really, there’s no one to discuss this with except you. We are now a club of two. Because if Heaven has a psychedelic jam band, they will sound exactly like Wooden Shjips.
So do like I do. The coming winter days are dark, cold, and wet. Like you would with an old woolen blanket, wrap yourself up in the warm, bark-and-twig-studded expanse of Ripley Johnson’s beard, pour yourself your favorite steaming hot beverage, and get on board.
And yes, the “j” is silent.