Sunday 21 April 2024

On And On And On The Story Goes

Last Sunday's post about The Woodentops and the chasm between the cost of creating music and it's monetary value in a world of instant gratification provoked a lot of visits, interest and reflection. 
A week on and I'm surprised and delighted to say that the eagerly anticipated album, Fruits Of The Deep, is suddenly here with us. Since receiving the mailing list announcement on Saturday afternoon, I've only had time for a few looped listens to the album so far, it's fantastic.
Thirteen songs, fifty three minutes and thirty six seconds, with a bonus fourteenth track taking the album into an hour of varied and wonderful sounds. As Rolo McGinty notes in the album release mailshot,
It is like any album form the Woodentops, a scattershot of different ideas, originality and stretching as much as possible the idea of a rock and roll band, from songs to the cinematic.
The opening quintet of Liquid Thinking, the singles Dream On and Ride A Cloud, then Too Good To Stay and Lately set the tone, indie pop par excellence bathed in the Balearic sunshine. You're hopefully familiar with the two singles by now, so you'll be right to sense that this 5-song set is an incredibly strong opening statement.
The cinematic adjective feels particularly apt when describing Hotel and City Wakes, both feeling like they're excerpts from a film, where things have become somewhat unhinged and unsettling for one of the lead characters. Hotel contains (to paraphrase Rolo) a "sad robot" vocal. City Wakes is an instrumental with deep bass horn from Jeff Miller, and Rolo's nighttime field recordings of trains rattling on tracks at the back of his home and the glass clatter of empties being tipped into the recycling bin at the local pub.
It's worth mentioning at this point that the Bandcamp page for Fruits Of The Deep also includes lyrics and sleeve notes which provide a brief insight into the origins, inspiration and recording of the songs. It's been a decade since The Woodentops' 'comeback' album Granular Tales, though elements of the songs on this album stretch back even further. 

I Can Take It was developed and completed following a period where Rolo was studio neighbours with Richard Thomas, though the lyrics scribbled down by a 16 year old Rolo after a week in jail. The accusation was false and the appeal was a success, but the words capture the period between the two. 

Singing as a man
words written as boy
It fed my resilience
You achieved nothing that day
when you put me away
I can take it
The closing song of the album is The Fishermen Leave At Dusk. In the accompanying notes, Rolo writes "I do not think I will ever write anything better than this" and you may be forgiven for thinking, "What? But what about [insert list of classic Woodentops songs here]?!"

But you know what? Rolo knows what he's talking about. He goes on to describe The Fishermen Leave At Dusk as "not a quick pop tune, its a more a movie with the visual content in your imagination" which is far better than anything I can come up with to describe it. 

The song reflects on Rolo's long stay trip in the Paradise Beach cabanas in Tangalle, Sri Lanka. There he got to know the locals: the very young people in the lace works along the shore; a man with a book autographed by Rick Stein, proclaiming his tiny seafood stall offers "the best hot seafood sauce in the world". 
This would have been late 2004 as shortly after Rolo left, Indonesia was devastated by an earthquake and consequent tsunami that resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of a million people. Rolo's lyrics reflect on the people he'd met and the horrific though that, if they were going about their business that day, they will not have escaped.
It's a heart-wrenching eight minutes, swirling acoustic strums, found sounds, ringing keyboards and sad sax flowing in and out of the song. It's incredible.
The bonus track is also eight minutes, an instrumental called Bathyscaphe which as the title suggests is inspired by the deep sea submersible ("that magnificent machine") used to explore that alien world within our own world, still full of mystery, uncharted territory and life that evolved, survived and thrived in an environment that we could not without a thick metal shell around us, with oxygen pumped in, carbon dioxide pumped out and pressure regulated to keep us alive.  

Bathyscaphe is driven by "drum hits" from Simon Goodchild and split into two sections (or "dives" as described in the notes) with a brief moment of calm separating the two. Rolo does everything else, including "razor blades to get between the wire wind of the strings" and it's an - excuse the pun - immersive experience. Fitting then, that this version is the stereo mix, with a Dolby Atmos total immersion mix of Bathyscaphe coming soon.
All of this as a digital purchase for a tenner. If you hear the album, you'll know that it's worth more.
I'm holding off my purchase for a little bit longer, partly because I don't get paid until the end of the month but also so that I can buy Fruits Of The Deep on Bandcamp Friday (3rd May). I know that this will impact on the album's first week sales performance, but I'd rather that as much of the money I pay gets to the artist as possible. 
On which note, there was a helpful reminder on the back of last week's post to avoid using PayPal if you can. Whilst Bandcamp waive their fees on the titular Friday, PayPal do not!

I think I say this every year, but 2024 has been a brilliant year for new music so far and the addition of an album by The Woodentops has just made it so much better.


  1. I listened to the album during the last hour and can only agree to your words, Khayem. It's ace and one of my future purchases. And yes, it is better to buy it on a Bandcamp Friday but only for a physical copy. I don't buy any vinyl over there because the shipping coast and taxes are often equal to the list price.

    1. Many thanks, Walter. My vinyl purchases have only resumed in the last couple of years but it's via subscription or direct-from-artist purchases only. I used to buy a lot of CDs from Europe, USA and further afield many years ago. These days, the cost of shipping and taxes have made it out of reach for me financially.