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Austin Psychfest Preview: Wooden Shjips

February 19, 2012

The Lonesome Beehive will be traveling to Austin at the end of April for the 5th Annual Psych Fest. In the meantime, the Beehive will endeavor to profile as many of the bands as possible. It seems only right to embark on this voyage with San Francisco’s  Wooden Shjips.

While these guys were formed in the epicenter of psychedelia’s birthplace, they’re all from the East Coast. Their new album West is reportedly about striking out to California in pursuit of the American Dream. Certainly, their propulsive rhythms and hypnotic drone would make for a fine soundtrack on a latenight stretch of highway. Although no one is going to accuse them of  laying down a fresh slab of asphalt, the Wood Shjips make the old road sound new again with their neo-retro blues-infused psychedelic chug. They hit the sweet spot for me in many ways. If anything, it is the addition of the hazey, droning organ that sealed the deal.

On a side note, when it comes to ships making their way across vast stretches of land, it’s hard not to think of  Fitzcarraldo, Werner Herzog’s film chronicling an obsessed man’s desire to build an opera house deep in the Amazon. Naturally, in order to achieve his ambitious plan he must first secure financing by striking it rich in the rubber trade, which can only be accomplished by enticing the local Indian population to drag a 320-ton steamship up a hill.

In the great tradition of pranksters and free thinkers the Shjips inspire similarly unhinged notions. Their tunes are dense instrumental explorations and when they do utilize vocals they hanging in the background like aural hallucinations. It’s the kind of music you can get lost … and found in.

Their deliciously fuzzed out guitars recall not just the 60s but also the distorted bliss of the Jesus and Mary Chain. “Motor Bike” is clearly an homage to the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “The Living End.” And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Wooden Shjips – Motorbike – MP3

The Jesus and Mary Chain – The Living End (LP Version) – MP3

A full 22 minute performance from the world’s greatest radio station KEXP is after the jump:

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