The Woolen Men
The Woolen Men
Release Date: Mar 05, 13
Portland may be the land of the hip, where the youth retire young, but if there is one thing about Portland that is either at the base of the city’s culture – in mockery or in real life – it’s the DIY aspect. And what’s more DIY than music, let alone punk music recently called “the workingman’s punk” by Ad Hoc? Two-thirds Oregonian, one-third Washingtonian, The Woolen Men (Alex Geddes, Lawton Browning, and Raf Spielman) have released their debut LP – self-titled and cassette-recorded by Eggy Records – in the same throes of self-fulfillment that punks before them did. Not trying to match up to current musical tastes or expectations, the band has released their debut only under the impression that it’s good enough for them first and foremost. While the roughness to the recordings and instrumental takeovers can at times be a little much, the album comes as a grounded start for full-lengths to follow in a more honed, but still raw, allure.
Opening with “Mayonnaise” in its upbeat lightness, it’s obvious that the Woolen Men have released their debut at the right time, the right kind of track to either do your spring cleaning to or prep for summer hazes on your fire escape. There’s a sort of mellow lounging to the tune that beckons you to the West Coast, if not immediately the Pacific Northwest. Short but sweet.
The rawness of the recordings gets amped up (no pun intended) on next track “Hold It Up,” recalling both homegrown punk mixtapes of the 1990s and politically charged anthems of the 1960s, the dead air of the LP recording behind the amplified guitar-heavy tune (heavier than the lyrics) scratched with dust and what might be the sound of forgotten boxes of your dad’s vinyls in the basement, a feeling of unheard memories. In fact, it nearly wipes out the memory of the prior track.
The two sounds merge on the third track, “Submission,” a catchy garage track about personal obligations and the nation’s benefits of personal resignation. “Don’t say I ever went out like that,” it ends, with a false crescendo. There is something worth buying into with hanging onto each 2-3 minute track so far, and it’s enticing enough to want to buy into the rest If you make it through the lofty and quick ballad-of-sorts “Her Careers,” which immediately brings to mind Dinosaur Jr, then you’re halfway through to getting the whole message – you can’t stop now. That would be quitting.
“Magic Tricks” is one of the vocally-clearer tracks on the album, not being overpowered by any other instrument nor by the grit of DIY quality. One of the longer tracks, it’s an easier one to follow and fall for so that by the time the instrumental middle comes along you’re swept up in the music, a break from the album thus far to be able stop and listen and digest.
To close the album, “Ode To An Hour” rises, dips, and lilts the lyrics around the steady percussion softly accompanying a guitar in the background. When you think you know where each line is going you’re taken to a different direction of harmony. Perhaps the quietest track, it feels appropriate to end on, simultaneously psyching you back up to listen to it all over again. Words of chocolate rings and dream happenings and looking for girls, this love song is the old-time pep that hooks you on this debut.