Wooden Shjips Back to Land

Wooden Shjips Back to Land
6
Have we reached peak psych, the point where Ripley Johnston's multiple musical endeavors converge into one, long hallucinogenic jam? The West Coast singer and guitarist has been on a roll, dropping four albums in two and a half years between the Krautrock-leaning Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips. On the latter's latest, it sounds like Johnson might finally be running out of gas. Wooden Shjips' thundering grooves always grounded their music, but Back to Land's front half floats off into the atmosphere before you even notice they're gone. With both groups, Johnson has sought to simplify his arrangements, giving the music an effervescent quality. He struck gold with that approach on Moon Duo's Circles last year. Here, though, he takes that quest a step too far, reducing a once-mighty psych-rock outfit into a backyard jam band. The album's back half fares better, with "In the Roses" best recapturing the energy of 2011's West, but by then the damage is done. Johnson has made great creative leaps with every new album he makes, but with Back to Land, he seems to have finally backed himself into a corner. (Thrill Jockey)