Psych-rock outfits like Wooden Shjips are supposed to specialize in mind-shredding head music for stationary stoners. The San Francisco’s band latest album, West, has plenty of that—dig the self-explanatory opener “Black Smoke Rise”—but it also speaks surprisingly well to the hips. Buried beneath the endlessly repeating guitar riffs and Ripley Johnson’s drugged-up drawl are deep basslines, soulful organ washes, and the nonstop rattle of a booty-tickling tambourine. That’s right: Wooden Shjips is a funky bar band dressed in tattered garage-punk clothing.
The greasy, hopped-up grooves of “Lazy Bones” and “Looking Out” aren’t dramatic departures from West’s overall drone-heavy aesthetic. But they do a lot to separate Wooden Shjips from similar bands, like the Black Angels and Dead Meadow, who tend to lumber about gracelessly whenever the pace quickens beyond a soporific brontosaurus beat. Wooden Shjips, however, slink and glide even on more conventional psychedelic fare like “Home,” which settles into a heavy yet subtly swinging rhythm that justifies blasting past the six-minute mark. While many bands are mining the ground explored on West, Wooden Shjips is the rare act that actually sounds like it originates from the late ’60s and early ’70s, perhaps because the group has an affinity for the same blues and R&B music their heroes had.