Posts Tagged ‘Woolen Men’

Woolen Men – “Alley Cat”

Always good to hear a new one from those cats in Woolen Men and the start of a singles’ club coinciding with a revenue share day on Bandcamp seems like a damn good reason to get over and pick this one up. “Alley Cat” is a straightforward chugger with a lightly toasted twang that ought to get your head noddin’ and the grooves stuck squarely in your head. Northwest indie goodness filling up the speakers on a Friday afternoon. Can’t ask for too much more than that these days. Nab this one and keep an eye out for the rest of the series.





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Woolen Men

Feels like I’m constantly making the point that Portland’s Woolen Men are viciously underrated, or maybe they’re constantly making that point for me. Either way, the band has been consistently kicking out taut n’ toned indie that plucks from the punk and post-punk piles with equal fervor. Their last album amped up the Feelies and Go-Betweens riffage while finding a new muse in rhythm, but this time around they’re toughening up the tincture and heading back to their high-school hangs with rough-nubbed workouts that gnaw at R.E.M., mid-period SST, late-period Dischord, The Fall, and as always, the Dü. The band’s prowess has always been the ability to throw these bits in the blender and not let one of them rise to the surface too heavily, letting the scent of past scenes float on the air while their frothy jams hold down substance of their own accord.

There’s not too many that do this with quite the same skill, but the addition of Possible Humans to the fold this year makes me wish for a double bill by the two bands as soon as possible. Like the Aussie upstarts, Portland’s finest seem to shift gears without any crunch on the clutch. The airy coolness of “Crash,” while worlds away, feels a kinship with the muscular pound of opener “Mexico City Blues” or the reckless rail of “Space Invader.” I’ve made the point in the past that its not style that defines Woolen Men, but an operating level that’s just a touch above the rest. While it would be hard to beat out the latter-day gem that is Post the band does a good job of giving it a companion in their current catalog and I’d highly recommend getting acquainted.



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Woolen Men – “Mexico City Blues”

These Woolen Men releases always come without warning and I’m never ready for what’s next. The band has been consistently one of the best at corralling the spirit of indie guitar into a new era that pays its dues to what came before without getting stuck in their predecessor’s footsteps. “Mexico City Blues” is methodical and measured, a steady rocker that anchors its admissions to a thud of bass while slashing and slicing just the right amount of jagged and jaded guitar over the top. A little while back Aquarium Drunkard ran down a review of what made The Mantles so vital to the San Francisco sound, which ended fittingly with the band tearing up roots and heading to Portland, only to be welcomed with open arms by Woolen Men in their first show in the Pacific Northwest. Like The Mantles, Woolen Men are the crux and soul of a sound, without ever putting on any pretensions about their status. What Woolen Men do matters too, and with a new record on the way, they’re proving just why that’s true. The new LP lands November 22nd. Get on it.



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Woolen Men

Portland’s constantly underrated Woolen Men are back with their fifth album and it’s the best incarnation of their ‘80s and ‘90s excavations yet. Built on a bedrock of knotty guitars and bone-dry vocals, the band finds a new arrow in its arsenal with the addition of sprightly, motorik-leaning rhythms. The combo gives the band’s sound a good shove in the direction of the sun and further towards indie pop than they’ve ever strayed. To be honest, indie pop wouldn’t have ever been a term I thought would apply to the veteran Northwesterners, but here we are. The band’s had a documented dedication to following their muse and rebuffing the trends towards the grunge legacy of their surroundings, but they’ve often strayed towards the dingier side of the past when trailing that muse.

They’ve powered through a period of angular post-punk, bouts of college rock that kicked at the doors of Pavement and Husker Du alike, but now they’re finding their groove stapling early Go-Betweens basslines to R.E.M. fallout and Feelies vibes. Its as upbeat an album as they’ve ever issued, and in a year when anger rules the racks that’s somewhat of a refreshing offer. The sound on Post (a winking nod of a title if there ever was one) is as crisp as they’ve ever sounded, on par with their previous high-water mark Temporary Monument. Though while the two albums may share a love of clarity, Post is the calm water coolout to Temp’s agitator itch.

Style and genre don’t seem to hold a place of permanence in their mindset, but a mark of quality always haunts any Woolen Men record. Post is no different, the band proves that they can jangle just as well as they can wrap their guitars around the rubbery wrath of The Fall. Woolen Men have now been knocking around Portland long enough to see waves of bands filter through fast fad life cycles, and while they themselves band may still be holding down day jobs, their dedication to doing what brings them joy has given them a longevity that contemporaries would likely envy. This may be the band’s finest hour, I’d advise paying close attention.



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Mope Grooves

Northwest ramshackle poppers Mope Grooves have hot-glued together a brittle but bright indie pop album that rests on the brink of falling apart but glows all the brighter for it’s resolve to keep things loose. Coming off slightly impenetrable at first blush, the album reveals itself to be more than just a noisy nugget of homespun clatter. The record is built on the angst, noise and innocence that fueled The Raincoats, Beat Happening or more contemporary enclaves like Nodzzz or Brilliant Colors. Centering around songwriter Stevie Pohlman’s battles with depression and the push-pull nature of dealing with mental illness, the record was bound to be bruised. The band is able, however, to smooth the wealth of crushed aluminum riffs into a semblance of pop that embraces the exit wound of depression’s lacerations rather than dwell on the glowing hurt at the heart of the matter.

Featuring members of Woolen Men, Patsy’s Rats and Honey Bucket, the band is a catch-all of similarly minded travelers all coming together to saw at the human condition with rubber band riffs and a cacophony that heals like an uncontrolled howl rather than raise the collective hackles of listeners. Pohlman’s grasp on the outsider jangle that populated the ‘80s and ‘90s gives this one a lost rarity quality, like stumbling on a Talulah Gosh demo in an old Goodwill box. It’s a quaint shot of pop that can’t help but charm time and again.



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Woolen Men

Portland stalwarts Woolen Men snuck out a low key release last week and it’s further proof that they’re cementing their status as heirs to the crooked crown of spindly post-punks. The band trawls through the catalogs of Kiwi scrappers like The Clean and Chris Knox then staple their approach the the steel wool scrape of The Fall, the no frills delivery of The Modern Lovers and the ensconced pop pilfering of The Feelies. And while that might make them sound more like archivists than innovators, the band’s appeal is more in how they fit the pieces together rather than any Where’s Waldo spot-the-influence challenge.

Woolen Men have shown up strong ever since their scruffy self-titler back in 2013. They came gunning for listeners with a whiff of familiarity that acts as bait to their acerbic world, then hook ’em in with rusted barb of guitar that bites deep. What’s surprising is that this release, while actually an odds n’ sods collection of tour tape cuts, splits and even a flexi, works as well as anything they’ve put out in their regular rotation. Even their chosen covers weave seamlessly, proving that the band both emulate their heroes well and have absorbed those sounds into the very DNA of their own work. That this doesn’t feel like an unplanned release cobbled together speaks highly to the creators. If even the extras are this strong, I can’t wait to see how the next proper LP shapes up.




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Woolen Men

Portland’s Woolen Men have already stung 2015 with a great LP released on Woodsist, but it seems they had more to give. Self-released as a cassette, Options gathers up six more cuts that lean on the band’s love of smashing 90’s grunge into propulsive post-punk. The tape is brief but from the outset the collection hits hard with the band finding a way to roll their sound in some gravel via opener, “Curtain,” then wiping down the speakers for a run through taut guitar territory. They cool for a bit on “Scarlet” before closing out the EP with a trio of muscular indie romps. The band is at home in the live setting, running through the Northwest’s DIY show scene in a regular rotation but with releases like this and the previous Temporary Monument they’re proving that their recorded output is just as enticing as the live experience.

Listen:


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The Woolen Men

Woolen Men hew close to the DIY roots of the American Northwest. They wear a badge of unofficially zoned venue house band on their sleeve, and so it comes as no surprise that their latest rails against the homogenization and white washing of the scrappiness of their hometown of Portland. Though the themes are more than applicable to any number of great American cities these days, as the jagged edges that made them unique are sanded in favor of convenience for the flush class. The band pairs their battle cry with a brittle brand of post-punk dipped in a brew of Wipers’ bluntness and some Chris Knox circa Toy Love grit. They know how to punch urgency into a shape that sticks in your mind, clasped in with hooks that sneak their bleakness in under the radar. They’ve upped the fidelity for Temporary Monument as much as the former looseness fit their style, some clarity is a welcome addition to their canon. The more this one spins, the deeper ingrained it gets. Frankly you should probably be paying attention.



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