The American West and “all of the mythology, romanticism and idealism that it embodies” are the themes at the heart of Wooden Shjips’ third LP, West. Those themes are more abstract in West though since they are not conveyed by the lyrics. The backbone of every song is a heavily layered groove of fuzz guitar, organ and echoes. Drums keep Swiss-time precision with little to no variation. Ripley Johnson’s vocals drift in and out, interspersed by a bluesy solo here and there, but go forward on a steady drone of guitar and bass.
If you’re fording a desert highway at dawn, these songs will get you across. They’re consuming and expansive, steady and constant. The sounds of ’60s psychedelia are alive in these tracks; everything from the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” to the Electric Prunes’ “Too Much To Dream” can be heard here. The average length of a song on the album is about six minutes, which means you’ll need stamina to get through all of them while actively listening. The riffs are catchy, but the cyclical rhythmic patterns wear on the ear. The jaunty organ on “Looking Out” will grab you at first but drag as the track progresses. All the songs have this quality to them, which means a hunger for ’60s psychedelia is a must. Prime yourself with some Steppenwolf, the Doors, Deep Purple and Jefferson Airplane though and you’ll be ready to travel West.