Tuesday, June 10, 2014

REVIEW: The Proper Ornaments - Wooden Head

In embarking on an evaluation of Wooden Head, the debut LP from London's The Proper Ornaments, I began with a positive attitude owing to the membership of James Hoare of Veronica Falls, and the label presence of both Fortuna POP! and Slumberland Records.  But the truth is that this project didn't need any special credits due to such associations.  The album stands proudly on its own merits.

Of course,  this isn't the first project to combine a hazy psychedelia with the dark shoegaze of The Jesus and Mary Chain, but rarely has it been done right out of the box with such assurance.  From the more up-tempo songs such as the urgent "Now I Understand" and "Stereolab", to the acoustic-based dream pop of "Ruby", the songs are well crafted, lo-fi and decidedly fuzzy at the edges.  There are delicate Beach Boys harmonies, '60s jangle, a bit of Velvet Underground edge and, in "You Shouldn't Have Gone", an excellent evocation of My Bloody Valentine.  Overall, the emphasis is on guitar tones and atmosphere.  And if you wish to add to the atmosphere with sunglasses, paisley shirts and bell bottoms, you won't be out of place.

The entire album was satisfying to my ears, but inevitably some tracks stand out.  One is the wonderfully gentle "Summer's Gone", which you can stream below.  Another is "Tire Me Out", which has a Guided By Voices vibe and may be my current favorite.  "Stereolab" and "Step Into The Cold" are highlights as well, and you can hear a live version of the latter below.  Album closer "You'll See" pleasantly echos the power pop of Teenage Fanclub.  This band does both gentle and harder rocking songs well, and there is no reason to choose.  But on this album I think the results shine brighter the more they rock.

The Proper Ornaments are James Hoare and Argentinian transplant Max Claps.  Wooden Head is out now.

Here is a live performance of "Step Into The Cold" --

Bandcamp (for previous EPs)
Fortuna POP!
Slumberland Records

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