The Proper Ornaments – Wooden Head

Wooden HeadAs far as monikers, music genres and buzzwords go, the music industry suffers almost by definition of hyperbole. The jaded reviewer can feel like he's being overloaded with fake excitement, and therefore hardly ever gets excited by any new music at all. The term 'neo-psychedelic' is certainly one of those terms that's been so overused as to have become almost meaningless, covering everyone from Echo and the Bunnymen to The Stone Roses and The Flaming Lips. So it's refreshing to come across a band who not only carry this term with pride but do it justice as well. You can imagine the members of The Proper Ornaments own an extensive collection of 60s and 70s obscure psychedelic records,, providing them with never ending inspiration. There's worse places to look for ideas, and with Wooden Head, The Proper Ornaments have delivered a record that deftly incorporates 60s psychedelica, folk rock, 80s acid rock and quirky, catchy indie-rock a la Flaming Lips or Tame Impala.

Airy Byrds like vocal harmonies float addictively over chiming guitars, groaning bass and Moe Tucker like drums, relentlessly propelling the Proper Ornaments wall of sound.

The only quibble would be that some of the tunes sound a bit under developed or could have been scrapped altogether. Listening to the album in one sitting, some songs tend to flow into another until the listener may feel like he/she is floating in a not unpleasant but rather murky haze with nothing much happening. What's now a 14 track album could have made a killer EP or a very strong 10 track album.

"Gone" is a great opener, sounding like The Jesus and Mary Chain on Valium, with beautifully laconic vocals over a groaning wall of sound plodding forwards in the most irresistible fashion. "Sun" is another winner, all guitar hooks, enchanting vocals and bone dry drums - grungy fuzzy laid back lo-fi pop perfection. Elsewhere, "Ruby" is an exercise in minimalism, musically little more than beautifully chiming acoustic guitars over a simple beat box. As an arrangement and a song it is so well crafted that the effect is nothing short of majestic. "Stereolab", named after your favorite UK electro-pop ensemble, surprisingly sounds like a cross between White Heat era Velvet Underground and shoegaze. "Tire me out" is a personal favorite, sounding like an apartment demo - perhaps recorded on the broken 8 track reel to reel referred to in the bio of the band? It has one of those quirky clop-clop 60s drum machines and a buzzy wash of lofi keys and guitars support laconic reverb-drenched vocals.

Finally, "Summer's Gone" is the single and rightly so; a pop anthem for the bipolar, with more than a hint of the Velvets' untitled third album. It perfectly captures the bittersweet melancholy of summer's end, when, all too soon, blue skies and sunshine make room for overcast days and long nights.

With Wooden Head, The Proper Ornaments have delivered a convincing debut that can hold its own as a strong new addition to the 'neo-psychedelic' genre.

Release: 9th June 2014, Fortuna POP!


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