The WOOLEN MEN – ” Brick Horizon “

Posted: September 4, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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As elder statesmen in Portland’s music scene, long-running post-punk trio Woolen Men have seen the boom-and-bust genre cycle more times than they care to remember. But one era, in particular, stands out in drummer and songwriter Raf Spielman’s mind as pivotal to the band’s creative journey.

“It’s interesting being in Pacific Northwest. We were around when Naomi Punk showed up and all of a sudden everyone was doing the grunge thing again. We didn’t go that route, and it passed very fast,” he says. “That was when we were like, ‘We don’t have to do any of this stuff. It doesn’t matter. We can do whatever we want.’”

Making the music they want without consideration of what might sell or what’s popular at the moment is central to Woolen Men’s DNA. In the decade that Spielman, guitarist Alex Geddes, and bassist Lawton Browning have played together as Woolen Men 2018 marks exactly 10 years for the trio—they’ve doggedly remained committed to the DIY punk ethos that pre-dates the transmogrification of “indie music” from a lifestyle to a sound, while quietly amassing a discography of sterling releases on a jumble of formats that show a band crafting an oeuvre of what might once have been called “college rock”: intelligent, tuneful guitar rock with a streak of punk rock grit underneath the hooks.

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They also released the decade’s best political post-punk record years before the term “angular guitars” started showing up regularly in the music press again: 2015’s instantly classic Temporary Monument(this isn’t hyperbole—go listen to it).

If Temporary Monument had been released today, its jangle-brushed post-punk sound and cutting lyrical dissections of gentrification, economic inequality, and the transformation of their native Portland into “a city full of ghosts,” as Browning sings on the record’s title track, might’ve made a bigger impact in a musical climate more inclined towards both post-punk and unambiguous political messaging than in the late Obama years. But Woolen Men have always been slightly ahead of their time, mostly because they’re uninterested in making anything other than what they want to make at any given moment.

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“We’ve never really made any concessions to the small changes that might make our music more appealing,” says Spielman. “This new record is a really good example of having made a pretty heavily post-punk-influenced record previously when very few people were interested in that sound, and now that sound, at least here in Portland, is very prevalent. If we wanted to keep people’s attention in that way, we could’ve made Temporary Monument 2. But we’re not interested.”

Their new record is called Post, which may or may not be a play on the prefix “post” as in “post-post-punk” (the band declines to confirm or deny this interpretation), but certainly showcases a band that’s post-giving-a-shit about pleasing anyone but themselves when it comes to the music they make together. Though not worlds away sonically from Temporary Monument Woolen Men will probably always best be described as a minimalist post-punk band with a scoop of early R.E.M.—Post finds the band making fearless musical choices, such as dropping a seven-minute long Arthur Russell-inspired track (“Amateur”) early on side one. It’s “about somebody who made a music they wanted to make their whole life and didn’t make any compromises,” explains Browning, which is a good way to sum up the career of “a band that has always been about doing what we want,” according to Geddes.

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While maintaining artistic purity makes for interesting records, it can present a challenge when building an audience. As Browning puts it, “I do feel like there’s a lot of love for Woolen Men in weird corners of the nation, but I don’t know if the kids ever really ‘discovered’ us. The people who buy our records are mostly people who are in families. It’s like they’re happy someone is still doing what they remember bands being about in the early ’80s.”

Releases September 1st, 2018

Raf Spielman – Drums
Alex Geddes – Bass
Lawton Browning – Guitar

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