Woodenbox have decided to bring Foreign Organ to our attention, and we’re very glad that they did. Aren’t you just sick and tired of these foreign organs coming to our country, taking the roles that our home-grown organs could do? We all appreciate that organs have the right to roam freely, but do we really need them here clogging up our stages and rehearsal rooms when some good old-fashion organs could do the same job?
Before the rest of the review gets any more UKIP (and to be honest, it wasn’t even that funny an introduction, it certainly wasn’t going to be strong enough to last a full review), let’s give proper focus to Woodenbox and their third album, Foreign Organ, which is released on Olive Grove Records. Also, when an album sounds this good, I couldn’t care less where a band comes from, let them all invade from Mars if they have songs like this up their intergalactic sleeves.
Life Decays has the woozy stomp and swagger of a 70s rock band who lounge about in private planes and who live by their own moral code. Thankfully it’s the musical endeavour and spirit of this time and era that Woodenbox has captured as opposed to the extra-curricular activities. There’s a crunching guitar sound that suggests that while life may decay, bear in mind that rust never sleeps.
Before you get too far into the album, you realise it’s a big album, it’s got a fantastically rich and warm sound. More Girl Than Friend, the third song on the record, is along the same lines of the second track, but with added female vocals and the spirit of a brass section whisking you away to a sunnier and more relaxed time and place. It’s an album that has been well timed for release in the summertime, and if we ever get the summer this year, it’s a record with a confident and laidback spirit that will go down well during the drinking days in the back garden or down the park. This song is boosted by the appearance of AlexKenzel and Cat Calton from Skinny Dipper, another great band from the same label.
Roberto has melodies and a horn section that sound instantly familair, so either they’re fantastic or they’ve been borrowed from songs that I can’t quite place at the moment. Either way, it’s a ballsy song with a striding pace and likeable mood. Carbon Mold is excellent and if there is any justice the band will become quite big because it’s exactly the sort of song that a festival crowd or big arena audience would sing cheerfully back and then replace the role of a singer for a few choruses. Face Able has the sprightly and jangly pace of early Byrds and The Monkees (and a lot of those American bands that sprung up in the early 90s with songs like that one about Stacey’s maw) while rattling off about how we spend so much time on social media. That’s probably meant in a negative way but it often beats speaking to folk in real life so it’s not all bad.
It’s very much an album of the present day
Musically, it’s a strong and confident album, and lyrically, it doesn’t shy away from the main talking points. There’s been a massive reappraisal of how we think about Scotland and ourselves in the past year and while Foreign Organ isn’t a post-referendum statement album, it does muse on the fall-out of the past year, while giving some thought to the reflective thoughts we’ve all had at times recently.
The last song on the album is called Scotland for goodness sake; even the dumbest of reviewers (hello!) are going to pick up on the tones. Musically it is a confident album but a lot of the lyrics are more akin to a developing confidence, like an awakening of the importance of being bigger, stronger or bolder if you want to achieve. It’s fair to say that Woodenbox aren’t the only people who have come to this sort of realisation of late.
You aren’t going to be bombarded with releases from Olive Grove, but what you do receive is of a high standard. It can be quite easy to develop an identity of a label and it may be that Woodenbox don’t fit your idea of an Olive Grove band, which is fair enough, but there’s also a good line that can be drawn between the acts. Melody lies at the heart of the label and if Woodenbox fall at the more Americana and rocky guitar element, you don’t need to take too many steps to detour to The State Broadcasters, Randolph’s Leap and The Son(s), even though all of these acts are quite distinct in their own right.
It will surely embarrass him (which is always a good reason to say or do something), but you have to say that Lloyd Meredith at Olive Grove has his finger on the pulse of what is good in whimsical, enjoyable and upbeat music. He also likes working with bands that have more members than I have pairs of socks…but that may be more of a criticism than myself than him.
You will find them in Nice N Sleazys on Friday the 5th of June (or Inverness on Saturday the 6th if you are up North) to launch their album, which is officially released on the 8th of June. A bit further down the line, they can also be found at The Electric Circus in Edinburgh on the 8th of August and then on the 9th of August, the band performs at the Kelvingrove Bandstand.