Often compared to Calvin Johnson’s legendary lo-fi outfit Beat Happening, Woollen Kits come into their own on their debut LP, writes DOUG WALLEN.
With nine songs in 26 minutes, you’d expect Woollen Kits? long-awaited album to toss out digestible bites of garage pop. But it doesn’t exactly, instead latching onto ropey instrumental passages that are just as endearing as the pop elements. Said passages are still scrappy, but they add a droning tug of oblivion to these primitive love songs. Vocals don’t surface until nearly halfway through ?Always?, letting us bob along to a golden streak of guitar-pop that could go on forever. And the opener ?Sloan? gets its teeth into us well before a word is uttered.
If the Melbourne trio’s [debut EP](/releases/2000456) was plainly indebted to early Beat Happening, their album is more like the chugging sprawl of Beat Happening’s swansong, You Turn Me On. But despite guitarist Thomas Hardisty’s Calvin Johnson-esque baritone, that comparison doesn’t hold as much water. Woollen Kits come into their own here, spinning craggy, jangle-prone melodies into a glowing example of underground pop that’s decidedly unpolished but not quite falling apart either.
There are still faint echoes of influences: ?For You? evokes The Clean’s ?Oddity?, especially in drummer Tom Ridgewell’s singing, and ?Sloan? seems to have something of The Kinks? ?Victoria? in its preamble. But mostly these nine songs sound like each other more than anyone else’s. While it would have to been nice to see the previous single ?Maths? included, these are uniformly better than that. The waggling ?University Narcolepsy? is a droll highlight, while the curt ?In Between? cranks up the reverb. And the great [?Out of Whack?](/news/4409118) bursts and bristles with melody.
“There may be some punk themes in the songwriting, like the obligation of work, but Woollen Kits don’t paint themselves into any corners.”
Even if they employ a bass that isn’t part of the band live, Hardisty, Ridgewell and guitarist Leon Applebee don’t complicate the arrangements here. Recorded with Lachlan Wooden – engineer on Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s [Primary Colours](/releases/2000059) – the songs are kept happily simple and barebones. Some saxophone sneaks into the cacophonous ?Watch You Walk? and a few other tracks towards the end, but it’s a minor presence. The album’s final third is more notable for slowing to a lugubrious pace and singling out the romance Hardisty favours in his lyrics. ?I Love You? exudes the sweet ache of devotion, and ?Always? could score a school dance.
There may be some punk themes in the songwriting, like the obligation of work, but Woollen Kits don’t paint themselves into any corners. They don’t settle for just punk, garage or pop. No, they patch them all into one single, ringing revelation.
####Woollen Kits? self-titled debut is out through R.I.P Society/FUSE on January 16.