I’m always skeptical when bands reunite after 20 or so years. Nostalgia is great and all, but these reunions are usually hollow in nature with the band touring with no new material, or worse they release an album that is a pale imitation of what they once were. A few years back, the Woodentops reunited for some sporadic shows in their native UK, released a best of album (Before During After was complete with unreleased tracks and remixes) and then seemed to slip back into dormancy.
Back in 1988, sometime after the release of Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway and the making of their next album, front man Rolo McGinty put the band on ice. I don’t know how close they were to completing album number three, but I have a Columbia Records compilation with a song called People of Today that was slated for the record. A year or so later I saw House of Love when they toured in support of Babe Rainbow. Guy Chadwick had drafted Woodentops guitarist Simon Mawby to take Terry Bickers place. I remember briefly asking Mawby at that show what happened to the Woodentops. Mawby’s response was something to the effect that Rolo had gone acid house and just lost interest in what the Woodentops were doing.
So I assumed that we would never hear another Woodentops record. Well, well, well thankfully that was not the case. The Woodentops are back. McGinty, Mawby and bassist Frank de Fritas have reunited and it ain’t a nostalgia trip. You know it’s the Woodentops as soon as you hit play, though the band don’t come off as hyper as they did 25 years ago. There’s no Get It On, Stop This Car or Shout, but that’s fine because that was 25 years ago. Woodentops 2.0 are more measured, but no less intense. At first songs seem slower, but McGinty can dial up intensity in more ways than just tempo. Mawby’s guitar sounds pristine, McGinty’s voice sounds like he’s not aged a day and the subtle intricate touches of percussion on each song makes everything sound fresh. Third Floor Rooftop High is the song that sounds most like the band’s heyday, but they throw in some Rolling Stones or Beatles psychedelia into it to make it the same but different. What Was Taken I Don’t Want It Back may be my favorite song on the album and the most mellow, but its gentle beginning builds into breathless crescendo. Granular Tales is like a comedown record, something you would put on after a hard night out. It has the ability to you on the dance floor. Its strength is that it knows that it could, but it is just fine keeping you in your comfortable in your chair with a huge smile on your face.