Label: Sick Thirst Records
I should like San Francisco’s Wooden Shjips so much more than I do; from the fuzz guitar and prominent organ to their tranced-out rhythms, or from the frequent use of creepy, skeletal-themed artwork, calligraphic album lettering or even the covers on Vol. 2 that reveal them to be giant music nerds (Neil Young, Serge Gainsbourg), the Shjips should be right up my alley, a direct hit by soulmates in bandom, etc. Yet despite their consistency and reliability for spooky, floating rock jams, the Shjips, like their second rarities collection, never exhibit any peaks or valleys with their songs, leaving Vol. 2 an unsatisfying listen.
Wooden Shjips have a formula down, and turn out songs that are like clockwork; Omar Ahsanuddin picks a pace on his kit, Dusty Jermier, almost always front and center in the mix, repeats a four or five note bass run off to infinity, Nash Whalen contributes glow-in-the-dark, Gothic organ and Ripley Johnson paints with his guitar in shades of monochromatic, wooly fuzz and occasionally mumbles something in the way of lyrics which can’t be deciphered, be they because of his own affectation or the maximum reverb applied to them. So, this then, is the story of Vol. 2, whose material is culled from a hard-to-find Sub Pop single and tour 45s, among other sources; it’s seven cuts of E.C. Comics and the Velvet Underground, making out with a flashlight under the covers.
A live recording of “Death’s Not Your Friend” edges ever so slightly out over the rest here; its different recording dynamic lets the band members breathe and play off one another. Over the course of the compilation, Jermier’s bass tends to override the rest of the instruments, becoming especially frustrating and deadening to ears expecting a shift in song structure (there’s not really any verse/chorus/verse songwriting with the Shjips), though that oppressiveness is levied a bit here and the lazy interplay between the band suggests Blue Oyster Cult’s On Your Feet, Or On Your Knees played by zombies. “Start to Dreaming” starts interesting, its comparatively creeping tempo sped up in no time to Ahsanuddin’s metronomic setting, relieving the song of much of its drama.
The rest is maddeningly similar, as Johnson seemingly follows his tail, chasing one reverbed guitar noodle down a rabbit hole until three minutes have passed; for all the jamming these guys do, it never seems like Johnson has anything to say with his guitar. It’d be interesting to hear the Entrance Band’s similarly-minded Guy Blakeslee play lead with Wooden Shjips, as he’s just the opposite- on last year’s The Entrance Band, Blakeslee couldn’t shut up.