Wooden Hez – Spew
In the rock n’ roll world, a little angst can go a long, long way. With the right, authentic sound behind lyrics of struggle and turmoil, certain bands can really put on a lowdown, bitterness clinic. If the balance is improper, you end up with Nickleback or something forgettable. It’s a precarious art, one that Philadelphia’s dirty, drooling rockers Wooden Hez have a mastery of. On the ten tracks of Spew, the band brings forth an explosion of filth-bombed riffage, husky singing and hallucinogenic melodicism. Call it grunge, hard rock or stoner…whatever floats your boat, but this is heart a snub-nosed rock album.
The boiling, codeine blues of “Inward Apocalypse” is a statement of intent and great showcase of the band’s strengths. Heavier guitars are mingled with twinkly harmony chords while the drums crash and bang in the darkness. Controlled blasts of loud are snuggly tucked into a blanket of tuneful, mid-tempo sensibility with a vocalist who is up to a gravelly no good the entirety of the song’s duration. In fact the album’s opening trilogy including “Old Skin” and “Reckoning” unfold in a similar fashion, all amps turned to the “hurdy gurdy” setting as the bass guitar wrangles a nightmarish shamble alongside the riff caterwaul and quiet, desolation drops into droning, head-nodding hard rock.
Suffocating, concrete dense blues shellacking is a centerpiece of the album, especially felt like a smack in the face on the grinding, slipped gear trudges of “Old Same Old” and “Sundown.” Though the album doesn’t offer a lot of variety in terms of pacing or tempos, Wooden Hez loosen up on the rough edges by incorporating sweeter textures involving keys and acoustic guitars into certain tracks.
Hippie dipped psyche-outs are provided on the acoustic malice of “Portrait” and “Hare Krishna.” “Hare Krishna” is particularly impressive, somewhat of a soundtrack/soundscape arrangement with acoustic guitars, violin, keyboards and a healthy dollop of reverb and echo crafting a twisting, writhing whirl of sonar wavelengths. The tumbleweed dusted, dune kickin’ dirge of “Killing Streets” is elevated thanks to some gothic church organ which echoes through stained glass in a sermon of surreal black magic. Perhaps the only truly upbeat song on the album, “Let’s Drive Tonight” has catchy, bouncing riffs that gets a lively rock n’ roll shake going.
Spew is a mostly stellar piece of work. There’s not a bad tune on it. The only criticism might be that the music could benefit from breaking out of its chosen mold more often. They certainly have no fear of exploration on some of the more atmospheric, psychedelic tracks and “Let’s Drive Tonight” is positively uplifting when the record needs it most. Still, with full on bluesy belters like “Old Same Old” and “Sundown” it’s tough to argue Wooden Hez’s general approach to taking a riff head on and letting it smolder in your memory. This quintet is light years beyond the boring, piecemeal lifelessness of modern rock radio, and hopefully on the merits of Spew, these guys are going to reach a larger audience.
– Alonzo Evans