Wand – Hard Knox

January 01, 1970

(Ecstatic Peace)




The artist formerly known as Wooden Wand (James Jackson Toth) has put
out something of a posthumous collection: Hard Knox may be Wooden
Wand/Wand’s epitaph. Here are some excerpts from Wand’s self-penned liner
notes: “Certainly, collections of demos, outtakes and home recordings are
mostly bogus… so obviously I’ve been somehow coerced into releasing this… In my
defense, all of the cuts contained here are ‘songs’… The lyrics here bug me in
many cases… You’ve already pardoned the narcissism, now pardon the cliché: I
stand behind these songs.” This kind of self-deprecating, passive/aggressive
excuse-making reminds one of a bar band singer apologizing to the patrons for
having a cold and not being able to sound his/her best. Is there anything lamer
or less necessary? The thing is, Toth has nothing to be defensive about here.
The songs/recordings are fine and if you’re a fan this will be something you’ll
definitely want to have. If you’re not, it likely won’t sway you much in either


Toth’s tunes can be charming or creepy. He’s often prone to
self-consciously ‘deep’ or overly dark lyrics and minor key wallowing, but his
delivery is so earnest and natural they never come off that way. And though
occasionally self-indulgent, his lyrics are still often thought provoking and
creative. One of the best songs here, “All These Generous Men,” is sung by
Jexie Lynn. It’s no coincidence that the lyrics are more streamlined. This one
brings out the ‘creepy’ factor, ironically mixing a feeling of dread with
lyrics that espouse the goodness in Men. Toth says in the liner notes it owes a
debt to Smog’s tune “Lize.” It also brings to mind the vibe of P.J. Harvey or a
pared down Kim Gordon fronted Sonic Youth tune. If Toth could string 10 tunes
together with the melodic, harmonic, and lyric strength of this tune, he’d have
himself a great record.


The lighter acoustic sounds of “Lady Of Situations” and “Saturday Delivery”
generally come off better than the heavier electric songs. The lyrics are still
thought provoking, creative and occasionally dark but are delivered without the
doom. And there’s nothing on Hard Knox approaching the ‘free’
experimental excursions of Wand’s earlier Gipsy Freedom or Buck
. That’s a good thing. Toth’s writing is his strong suit. Wand is
filled with average to weak instrumental skills and forms that are more akin to
‘60s/’70s folk and psychedelic rock than anything else. And the adolescent
blues guitar noodling of “Dark Is Bending” approaches embarrassing. If you’re
looking for creative improvised folk or “psychedelic/folk” music, seek out Pillars & Tongues.     


Standout Tracks: “Lady Of Situations,” “Saturday Delivery,”
“All These Generous Men” JOHN DWORKIN




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