Now established as a live force to be reckoned with, alt-folk sextet Woodenbox aim to translate this energy to record with the release of their sophomore album ‘End Game’. Released via Olive Grove Records, the album promises to retain the quirky promise shown on their debut ‘Home and the Wildhunt’ but also add a more cohesive element due to the band’s first attempts at collaborative song writing.
Opening with the jazz-tinged ‘Roll for Me’, this new approach appears to have paid dividends. There’s elements of ska, world music and stomping keys throughout and this all-encompassing sound appears to be made for festivals. A grittier Bellowhead, this everything-including-the-kitchen-sink method of song writing continues on the sunshine-infused 60s-aping ‘Courage’. There’s a clear Scott Walker influence but this is thrown in with some Super Furry Animals-style psychedelia. Throughout the opening songs, you also notice just how much depth the new horn section has added to the band’s sound.
Acoustic strums are joined by a samba beat on ‘Kings Liar’, a song that was made for skanking. The keys are also unashamedly high key and the celebratory feel is offset by the lyrics of: ‘You must give way to some of the devil’s desire’. The Latino atmosphere continues on ‘The Royal Mile’, a real earworm of a song that has a cheeky bassline that is hard to shake off. Highly danceable, the gentle harmonies lift the song into a higher places and the feel-good vibes continue through on must-be single ‘Beautiful Terrible’, which is a bold and eccentric pop song with the memorable chorus: ‘It’s a beautiful day, but a terrible night’.
By the midway point of the album, you know exactly what you’re getting from Woodenbox – memorable pop songs that will see you through festival season. Despite the positive vibes on the outset, there’s a touch of introspection as Ali Downer sings: ‘Nobody’s got problems, but everyone’s got views’ on ‘Everyone Has a Price’. The darkness continues on ‘Asphyxiation’ which is full of rhetorical questions like: ‘Where have you been lately?’ and ‘Where are you coming from?’ as well as describing how you’ve been ‘Looking for something you’ll never find’.
A varied and rugged sound that at different points brings to mind the everyday earnestness of Bruce Springsteen, the gravelly country of Johnny Cash and the unabashed joyful pop of Guillemots, this is an enlightening listen that has its heart in folk and ska and would surely translate well to the live scene, especially with festival season coming up.