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Wooden Shjips - Back To Land CD (album) cover

BACK TO LAND

Wooden Shjips

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.19 | 7 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars The latest-to-date album from the erstwhile California space quartet finds the band in their usual rut, but not exactly stuck. Guitarist / Shjips captain Erik 'Ripley' Johnson calls it a more "relaxed and laid back" effort, but don't worry: the album is hardly an easy-listening compromise. From the bouncy title track onward all the familiar elements are accounted for: the steady rhythmic grooves, the fluid guitar solos, the half-whispered echoplex vocals. And yet for better or worse it's the band's most accessible collection ever, surprisingly shjipshjape compared to the rougher garage band sound of their earlier EPs.

The album's name was chosen well, although an even better title might have been "Down to Earth". The almost conventional guitar lines and conspicuous lack of trippy effects are a not unwelcome surprise; ditto the brief moment (in "Servants") when Omar Ahsanuddin breaks the fixed rhythm with a rudimentary drum fill. It's only a single added half-beat, but as an unskilled ex-basement drummer I applaud his initiative. And a few of the songs ("Everybody Knows", and especially the lovely "These Shadows") have genuine melodic appeal, the latter actually featuring some acoustic rhythm guitar: radical stuff for such an otherwise far-out ensemble.

A partial relocation up the coast to the more progressive environment of Portland, Oregon might have accounted for the change of musical pace. It's the sound of a band settling perhaps too comfortably into their budding above-ground success, slowly moving away from the cyclopean minimalism that was always their strongest asset. Laid back or not, the new approach certainly works as a novelty, but not enough to hope it becomes a habit.

On the other hand, maybe it was time for the Shjips to finally drop anchor in a safe port. Repetition in music can be a healthy discipline (just ask any Krautrocker), but a musician repeating himself from album to album is courting stagnation. Any one bar is typically enough to get the gist of a Wooden Shjips song; any one song is usually enough to grasp the entire album. By gently shjaking their musical kaleidoscope, the band can now avoid having any one album be enough to typify their entire career.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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