“Death brings us close, death brings a ghost…”
Normally there’s nothing at the merch table I can’t live without, but after a Woods show the other night I noticed this new one. Looked like an EP with three live songs, two of which are their most epic, so I went for it. I didn’t realize until I got home and turned the cover over that it was a split LP with The Men—a band with a terminal identity crisis that I tried really hard to like, acquiring and eventually unloading three albums, each more boring than the last. So this’ll effectively be a one-sided record for me from here on out.
The studio version of “Bend Beyond” already sounds like more of a mammoth song than can possibly be contained in it’s mere 4.5-minute length, with at least three guitar tones—from a shimmering glass-like timbre, some very fine wah wah, to a Crazy Horse-ish wail. They really stretch out on this one live, which is why I wanted to secure a document of it. They don’t quite nail it, with something resembling a goof when a solo is nearly launched but evidently vetoed by another player with a different idea. Or maybe the same guy hit the wrong pedal. It happens. And when the brief final chorus finally arrives, its a bit of a surprise, as the build-up hasn’t sufficiently telegraphed it. Even if not the definitive live rendering, it’s the recording Pickathon got, and still worthy of this release. The single-side runtime allows for a short one too, and for a band that’s got a ton of concise folk pop songs, “Rain On” hadn’t struck me as one of the more memorable, but It makes a greater impact live than the shambolic original, and a privileged spot on this release demands I bring fresh ears to it. Finally, we get “With Light And With Love” an already monster arrangement in its studio form, so live it’s more expansive only in the sense that it simply breathes a little more. It’s less tightly-wound at the start than the infinite, already-in-progress feel of the original. At first I worry this too might fall short of the definitive reading I want, but it quickly sounds more assured, and by the first chorus they’re totally on fire. The quiet middle section sounds like a short-circuiting mellotron, and it’s awesome. The song gains momentum in a more satisfying fashion than “Bend Beyond,” even if the short pause before the explosion of the final shredfest doesn’t quite raise hairs like the album version. These guys are certainly worthy of a double live album, but I’ll settle for this half LP for now.
And for some bonus tracks, I’m gonna play their previous 45 too (also 2014), since I remember it as being the best two-song primer should I ever need to win someone over to them. “Tambourine Light” is the perfect ditty I’d expect for the “Rain On” slot above. Jangly, catchy-as-hell, and immaculately recorded but not antiseptic in the slightest. Sounds like Jeremy’s double-tracked his vocal, and who better to harmonize with him? And yes, there’s tambourine. I hope the title “Tomorrow’s Only Yesterday” is a winking cliché intended to evoke some forgotten psychedelic song. They get weirder here, but nothing to get in the way of nodding your head to it. A little bit of fuzz never hurt anyone, and this is the best indication on record of how noisy they can get on stage. If you don’t love these two songs, Woods ain’t your band and I can’t help you.