Flashback Friday: Wooden Shjips (Smoke On The Water)

Wooden Shjips are releasing new album V. today via our friends at Thrill Jockey, and trust us, it’s a must hear. As you might gather from the LP’s title, it’s the San Francisco band’s fifth album, though these psychedelic sailors insist the “V” references the two-fingered peace sign. (We’re more familiar with the one-fingered salute, but we digress … )

Lazy music journalists might say Wooden Shjips sound like what would happen if Spacemen 3 were American and listened to a lot of the Dead and Suicide, but it is the Friday before Memorial Day, and marijuana possession has been decriminalized in our hometown of Philly, so go ahead and call us lazy.

Speaking of weed, it’s Flashback Friday time, man. We first introduced you to Wooden Shjips in issue #81 back in fall 2011 around the time third album West came out. We’re bringing you that article today, published online for the very first time. Get psyched:

WOODEN SHJIPS: FIRE SAIL

Wooden Shjips

Brevity becomes Wooden Shjips on their best album yet

Wooden Shjips don’t know when to stop—in the very best way imaginable. Newly out on Thrill Jockey, West provides a fresh perspective on (alien) terrain once broached by the likes of Chrome and Spacemen 3. But the San Francisco-based (still, kinda) psychedelic quartet pursues their mission with a restless inventiveness that makes seven minutes seem too short, and seven songs too few.

“When it came time to record the album, we really didn’t talk about how long we wanted songs to be,” organist Nash Whalen explains by phone as he prepares for a string of tours that’ll last into late fall. “We just played them in the studio, and then later on, we were like: ‘Wow! That was only four minutes?’”

Granted, they were working in unfamiliar surroundings. Recorded and mixed in six days by Phil Manley (Trans Am, Oneida, the Fucking Champs) and mastered by psych/experimental legend Sonic Boom, the band’s third album (not counting two singles collections) is the first they’ve recorded away from their practice space. The added clarity brings West’s constituent parts into sharper relief without sacrificing anything in the way of immediacy.

As always, Whalen, bassist Dusty Jermier and drummer Omar Ahsanuddin mostly contribute momentum and texture—though Whalen occasionally steps to the fore. Founder, singer and guitarist Ripley Johnson’s spectral croon sounds more disembodied than ever, a perfect foil for solos that unfold like some cosmic rupture the Hubble might capture a glimpse of.

With the likes of Animal Collective introducing the indie rock masses to psychedelia and events like Austin’s annual Psych Fest enhancing their visibility, it’s no wonder that demand for the band is rising.

“It’s one of those kinds of music that’s always going to have hardcore fans,” says Whalen. “But when more good bands come along, the genre expands and more people are able to get excited about it. It seems like right now a lot of bands are tapping into it, and I think it’s a good thing. Everyone’s coming at it from a different place. It’s not a one-trick pony, not a one-dimensional genre at all.”

—Rod Smith