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The Woodentops — Granular Tales (2014)

 The Woodentops — Granular Tales (March 4, 2014)

GBR Flag The Woodentops — Granular Tales

•°•   London–based purveyors of electro–acoustic dance pop; a clever group that faded in the '90s to return in the 21st century.
•°•   “It would be easy to decry McGinty and his fellow Woodentops for attempting to cash in on the seemingly never–ending stream of ’80s nostalgia. Yet they were never really a best–selling band, and very much remained a cult concern. It’s hard to see Granular Tales changing this — while it’s accessible, it’s never flat–out commercial pop thankfully — but it’s certainly the sound of a band recharged and ready to recapture what made them so special in the first place. Hopefully, the fourth album will be released before 2040.” — John Murphy
Formed: 1983 in London, England
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Album release: March 4, 2014
Record Label: Cherry Red Records
Duration:     47:07
Tracks:
01 A Little More Time     4:24 
02 A Pact     3:44 
03 Conversations     3:33 
04 Smokin'     3:09 
05 Third Floor Rooftop High     3:59 
06 I'm Delighted     4:09 
07 Stay Out of the Light     4:01 
08 Every Step of the Way     3:47 
09 Off to War     3:30 
10 Take Me Through the Night     3:14 
11 What Was Taken I Don't Want Back     3:42 
12 Because of You     5:55
Present line–up:
°   Rolo McGinty — vocals, guitar
°   Simon Mawby — guitar
°   Aine O'Keeffe — keyboards
°   Frank de Freitas — bass guitar
°   Paul Ashby — drums

Past members: Paul Hookham, Anne Stephenson, Alice Thompson, Murray Gold, Benny Staples
Written by:
•°•   Rolo McGinty 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12
•°•   Rolo McGinty / Richard Thomas 2, 3, 6, 9, 10
•°•   Rolo McGinty / Mike Nielsen 11
Themes: Mischievous Playful Club Late Night Dance Party
Credits:
°   Paul Ashby  Drums
°   Panni Bharti  Design
°   Frank Byng  Engineer
°   Frank de Freitas  Bass
°   George Holt  Engineer
°   Cass Irvine  Mastering
°   Simon Mawby  Guitar (Electric)
°   Rolo McGinty  Composer, Guitar (Acoustic), Producer, Vocals
°   Mike Nielsen  Composer, Mixing, Producer
°   Aine O'Keeffe  Keyboards
°   Paul Richardson  Engineer
°   Richard Thomas  Composer, Piano
Review by Mark Deming | Score: ****
•°•   It’s been a bit more than a quarter century since the Woodentops last released an album, and 2014's Granular Tales doesn’t suggest the reunited band has tried to make an album that would convince us nothing has changed since Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway dropped in 1988. This edition of the Woodentops — in which original members Rolo McGinty (vocals), Simon Mawby (guitar), and Frank de Freitas (bass) are joined by drummer Paul Ashby, pianist Richard Thomas, and keyboardist Aine O’Keeffe — lacks a bit of the youthful energy of their heyday, with slower tempos and melodies that sound more contemplative than their work of the ’80s, and Granular Tales reveals significantly less of the acoustic undertow they delivered on their touchstone album, 1986's Giant. But the steady pulse and frequent percussive bursts that dominate these songs certainly hark back to the Woodentops’ beat-crazy glory days, and also provide a bridge to the dance music that’s been a major part of McGinty’s post–Woodentops résumé. Granular Tales is the work of an older and more cautious band, but one that hasn’t forgotten how to wind up and make its songs hop, and tunes like “A Pact,” “Third Floor Rooftop High,” and “Stay Out of the Light” could certainly fill up a dancefloor if given the chance (while “Every Step of the Way” and “A Little More Time” suggest a live band approaching the rudiments of electronic dance music, and with genuine success). And Mawby’s guitar fits beautifully into these insistent arrangements. Granular Tales is a pleasant surprise — an album that acknowledges the Woodentops’ frantic glory days while offering them a way to move into the 21st century gracefully, and demonstrates how dance music can mature while still getting the party started; this doesn’t exactly pick up where the Woodentops left off, but certainly finds them just where they want and need to be. (http://www.allmusic.com/)

REVIEW
Hayley Scott | April 8th, 2014 08:17
•°•   We live in an era defined by our predilection for nostalgia, and with that comes the inevitability of comebacks; of course — music is cyclical, we all know that now, thanks to Alex Turner's well–meant but awkwardly sapless Brit Awards speech. And because of its "cyclical nature", never more so than the present has independent guitar–based music of the 1980s been so revived and revered — take 2013's meticulously compiled Scared To Get Happy box set, which chronicles indie pop's epoch and reiterates the early days of bands like Primal Scream and Prefab Sprout. Its story was one that seemed more comprehensively wrought than most of its kind, in turn inciting a new dewy–eyed nostalgia for yesteryear.
•°•   Since then we've seen myriad revivals from those who were seemingly forgotten, and those who are extant: twee proprietors Talulah Gosh resurfaced with the all–inclusive Was It Just A Dream? compilation, even 1986's iconic C86 cassette is getting an extensive reworking in June. There's also a heightened appreciation of the associated fashions and its aesthetics: Sam Knee's A Scene In Between excavated the sartorial treasures of the era, centring the book on the various styles of bands affiliated with labels like Postcard, Creation and Sarah Records. It's this kind of retrospection that has induced a wider appreciation of the 1980s music scene in general, and a notion that denotes to a time other than the Bananarama — esque visions most people have of the decade. Rather it's the shambling, anorak clad revolution of the 80s — when the term indie embodied principle and meaning — that people are increasingly citing.
•°•   But while The Woodentops have always pertained to the 80s UK indie pop scene, shoving them into that bracket often seems quite tenuous; though it makes perfect sense in theory: too hedonistic to be explicitly "indie" and too idiosyncratic to be commercially viable. In terms of musical aesthetics, though, the band were more arbitrary than shambling, and when pared down to its bare bones, The Woodentops' music is primarily pop at its purest — accessible but singular, and abound in enough eccentricities to negate the commercial guff that filled the increasingly gushy, candy–coloured landscape of the 80s.
•°•   That's why in 2014, their first album in 26 years feels pertinent. In a time when all this seems the norm, you'd be forgiven for denouncing the band for cashing in on our thirst for the perpetual stream of 80s nostalgia, but this is a band who have never really been away in terms of influence and tangible presence. Despite attaining critical success during their pinnacle with debut album Giant, following the release of 1988's Woodenfoot Cops On The Highway they soon ventured deeper into obscurity, but their music has always been an important footnote in indie history, and their records always heavily available — it was only recently that I bought the popular double A–side Stop This Car from a Poverty Aid in Leeds. Now, their name is likely to elude the unfamiliar, but they remain cult favourites amongst proponents of the era. (http://thequietus.com/)

REVIEW
By Paul Scott–Bates | Posted on February 20, 2014 | Score: 9.5/10
•°•   Original Indie rockers, The Woodentops, release their first album for twenty–five years. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott–Bates explains why it was worth the wait.
•°•   If you’re unfamiliar with The Woodentops, then Granular Tales could sound like a Best Of collection and this review could well end here. Twelve songs that you think you recognise but have never actually heard before is something that will be rectified soon as you play this album again and again.
•°•   I first became aware of The Woodentops in the mid–eighties with their landmark Giant album. They were the original Indie band, combining Afro–beat with a Balearic sound which was to become synonymous with them, and combining with electronica and funk. Their remixes probably introduced me to the delights of dub. Then to me, they disappeared.
•°•   The suggestion of a new Woodentops album was certainly intriguing and filled me with more excitement than I would have imagined. The gruff, butch whisper of lead singer Rolo McGinty would again grace my ear–drums and those superb melodies would again infect my mind. Speaking to me recently, Rolo explained that they needed to ‘recharge their batteries’. Recharge they certainly have, because Granular Tales is a triumph from the beautiful cover artwork to the clean, precise, well–written tunes.
•°•   A Little More Time is as unlikely album opener as you may get. It’s low–key, it’s a basic chorus and it rhymes ‘time’ with ‘wine’. It’s wonderful. The aforementioned McGinty whisper is perfect and the backing track is layered and sumptuous glistening like a new diamond.
•°•   There’s an energy to their music which is often hidden and also often allowed to break through with second track, A Pact, proving the point. Starting with the percussive style which made them so unique soon breaking into racing drums and sparkling guitars the infectious chant of a chorus.
•°•   Lead single, Third Floor Rooftop High should be etched on everyone’s brain and deserves to be one of those instantly recognisable tunes that graces your radio everyone you switch it on — cue Radio 6! It explodes into a frenetic steam–train of a track that bounces and thunders along from start to end. This is how to write pop, Kids.
•°•   The strings to The Woodentops’ bow would seem endless with a distinct disco funk element to Stay Out Of The Way, and time to nod in the direction of Kraftwerk on the backing to Every Step Of The Way. Blues makes an appearance on Off To War.
•°•   There’s a lovely reggae beat to Conversations which seems to blend with a Spanish sounding guitar and an almost musical box melody before rockier guitars enter the mix. Lovely keyboards compliment.
•°•   More incisive pop on What Was Taken I Don’t Want Back as a repetitive hook wheedles its way between your ears. Because Of You closes the album with a cracking bass and crying guitars.
•°•   Granular Tales isn’t just another album by an 80s group wanting another taste of the action, it’s an album from a group that were critically acclaimed but never reached the commercial heights that they should have done. It’s an album that follows the natural progression of one of Britain’s finest acts. It’s an album by a group on the top of their game and one that they can be very proud of. (http://louderthanwar.com/)

REVIEW
By DJ EL TORO | Published: MARCH 17, 2014
•°•   Amidst the dour lyrical sentiments and ill–fitting raincoats of the ’80s UK indie scene, South London quintet The Woodentops injected much–needed bursts of optimism. While Morrissey pissed and moaned about every insurmountable obstacle life pitched in his path, The Woodentops’ frontman Rolo McGinty unfurled a string of singles (“Good Thing,” “Love Affair with Everyday Living”) that brimmed with bonhomie and camaraderie. It’s no wonder their 1985 single “Well Well Well” became a dance floor favorite in Ibiza during the early days of ecstasy culture.
•°•   In the hands of a lesser band, cheerful sentiments like “I want to share everything with you” (“Move Me”) could’ve seemed trite, yet The Woodentops imbued their performances with irresistible exuberance and executed them with a light touch. Animated by lively percussion, acoustic guitar, and McGinty’s conversational singing style, the quintet’s songs left plenty of space in the arrangements; throughout the band’s initial six–year run, On–U Sound mastermind Adrian Sherwood reassembled these components into a handful of memorable remixes and dubs.
•°•   Mercifully, all these key pieces remain in place on Granular Tales, the band’s first studio full–length in 25 years (available now on Cherry Red Records). Lead single “Third Floor Rooftop High” rekindles the ebullience that made the band’s early work so endearing, while “Every Step of the Way” harks back to the classic “Love Train,” albeit with echoes of The Yardbirds’ “For Your Love” reverberating through the chorus’ cascading vocals. Quieter, contemplative songs like “A Little More Time” and “Take Me Through the Night” still bristle with emotional transparency, and the rhythmic fluidity running throughout these twelve tracks ensures that even the slower selections never feel static.
•°•   Unemployment, class disparity, unjust wars, corrupt politicians — the problems that bedeviled England and America during The Woodentops’ first go–around — remain as vexing as ever. The passing of years hasn’t alleviated these woes, yet neither has it diminished The Woodentops’ ability to counter them with propulsive grooves and uplifting lyrics. Granular Tales sounds like the logical successor to 1988′s Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway. It took a far sight longer to reach fruition than diehard fans might’ve liked, but it’s certainly worth the wait. (http://blog.kexp.org/)
Also:
By John Murphy | posted on 20 Feb 2014 | Score: ****
:: http://www.musicomh.com/reviews/albums/woodentops-granular-tales
By Stephen Slaybaugh | February 18th, 2014
:: http://agitreader.com/wp2/the-woodentops-granular-tales/
Website: http://www.woodentopsmusic.com/
MySpace: https://myspace.com/thewoodentops
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Woodentopsmusic
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WoodentopsOfficial
Last.fm: http://www.last.fm/music/The+Woodentops
Press: Matt Ingham matti@cherryred.co.uk
Agent: Jamie Kelly jamie@themagnificent.co.uk
Discography:
Albums:
•°•   Well, Well, Well... The Unabridged Singles Collection (1985) Rough Trade UCD 60003–2
•°•   Giant (1986) Rough Trade/Columbia (UK #35, UK Indie #2) Producer Bob Sargeant
•°•   Live Hypnobeat Live (1987) Rough Trade/Epic (UK Indie #1)
•°•   Woodenfoot Cops on the Highway (1988) Rough Trade (UK #48, UK Indie #1)
•°•   Bamboo: The Best Of The Woodentops (2003)
•°•   Vinegar (2006) self release sold at live shows
•°•   The BBC Sessions (2007) Renascent
•°•   Granular Tales (2014)
Singles:
•°•   "Plenty" (1984) Food (UK Indie #40)
•°•   "Move Me" (1985) Rough Trade (UK Indie #9)
•°•   "Well Well Well" (1985) Rough Trade (UK Indie #1)
•°•   "It Will Come" (1985) Rough Trade (UK Indie #4)
•°•   "Good Thing" (1986) Rough Trade (UK Indie #7)
•°•   "(Love Affair With) Everyday Living" (1986) Rough Trade (UK #72, UK Indie #1)
•°•   "Give It Time" (1987) Epic (US)
•°•   "You Make Me Feel" (1988) Rough Trade (UK Indie #4)
•°•   "Woodentops Vs. Bang The Party" EP (1991) Hyperactive
•°•   "Stay Out of the Light" (1991) Hyperactive
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The Woodentops — Granular Tales (2014)

 

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