The Pacific Northwest has never been short on proud indie rock exports, including the endless array of acts offered up through the likes of Sub Pop and K Records. But the debut full-length by The Woolen Men proves the region has more to offer these days than history.
The trio’s members — Raf Speilman, Lawton Browning, and Alex Geddes — are intuitive students of the area’s firm underground foundation, and the Portland band’s self-titled debut offers up all the proof. Raw, cranky, and crudely underproduced, The Woolen Men owes a considerable debt to many of its aforementioned forefathers, namely to the defiantly lo-fi garage punk of Dead Moon and The Wipers. From the jangling guitars, pronounced bass, and submerged vocals on lead track “Mayonnaise” to the understated drum stomp that anchors “Her Careers” and the record’s overall hand-recorder production quality, the album reeks of the same turgid DIY ethos that first gave the region and its bands their legendary clout.
Still, The Woolen Men doesn’t feel like a cheap knock-off, even if they have their ears firmly pressed to the ground. Yes, the band tugs a little too hard at its roots at points, but it’s still a fun listen, and it’s hard not to dive in as they play in the dirt. “Head On The Ground” sounds like a muddy intersection where the 13th Floor Elevators and early Replacements might meet, and “Ode To An Hour”, with its literate, confessional lyrics and razor-thin production, could go shot to shot with Robert Pollard’s early work.
Loose and uninhibited, The Woolen Men turns in more evidence that there’s fun to be had along rock ‘n’ roll’s ugly fringes, even if the point’s long since been made.
Essential Tracks: “Mayonnaise”, “Head On The Ground”