The Upshot: Promising UK band ditches its winning psych pop formula for a plodding, pallid sound.
BY JOHN SCHACHT
For this UK band’s sake, you have to hope there exists a happy place somewhere between the “whirlwind of chair-breaking, knife-drawing chaos” that occasioned its promising debut and its desultory sophomore retreat into, well, this Foxhole in 2017.
#Wooden Head#, released in 2014, was the work of James Hoare (Ultimate Painting, Veronica Falls) and Max Oscarnold (Toy, Pink Flames). It wasn’t a perfect debut, but it wore its influences proudly and loudly. But, according to the band’s own PR, the steep mental and physical cost caused this calculated retreat that strips back the band’s sound and, unfortunately, anything resembling its mojo.
Gone is the fuzzy guitar crunch reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain, the Woods-friendly psych pop, and the big power pop hooks. Gone, too, is the notion of a two- or three-minute rock song, replaced by somber, dragging tempos that overstay their welcome in almost every instance. Built on strummed guitar and a few Lennon-like piano chords, the sad-sack love-lost ballad “Memories” has all the personality of a sloth, and its nearly six minutes only enhances that simile. Instead of wisely shifting gears for some contrast, though, Proper Ornaments doubles down on the same lethargic tempo on the next track, “Just a Dream.”
“1969” then goes to the plodding tempo-well a third straight time—this time with heavily reverbed vocals—to turn its titular hot year into an off-putting ice-block. That then leads into an even more stilted number—”The Frozen Stare”—which at least offers an apropos handle. Throw in a pallid imitation of Elliot Smith’s angst with “Jeremy’s Song,” and the LP’s few highlights—the thrumming “Cremated (Blown Away)” and “Bridge By A Tunnel,” the only track with a memorable chorus— can’t rescue Proper Ornaments from the ugly truth: there’s a bomb already in this Foxhole.
DOWNLOAD: Their debut.