Wooden Shjips – Vol 2

April 18, 2010

“Vol 1,” from 2008, collected together in one place some of the Wooden Shjips’ earliest releases. “Vol 2” does something of the same, and so when I put it on I was expecting to hear more of the same — which in this band’s case means some excellent stuff.

And that’s exactly what I heard, at least at the start. Tracks 1 and 2, “Loose Lips” and the even better B-side “Start to Dreaming,” were first released a few years ago on a Sub Pop 7″. Then came “Vampire Blues” — a Neil Young cover — and a live version of “Death’s Not Your Friend.”

Then came track 5, which was not what I was expecting and but what really blew me away. The first thing I noticed is that I couldn’t quite catch the lyrics  — but not because of the echo, distortion, and other effects that often add spectacularly to Wooden Shjips’ compositions — instead because they were being sung in French. Then after a few minutes it sinks in: this is a completely amazing cover version of the song “Contact,” written by Serge Gainsbourg and performed (below) by Brigitte Bardot. Wooden Shjips slow it down and stretch it out — this version runs almost 8 1/2 minutes — and make it their own in every way, while somehow still retaining all the style, panache, and humor of the original.

A stunning testament, in other words, to the band’s creativity and talent. And that’s what makes “Vol 2” more than just another collection of singles, live tracks, covers, and rarities, and instead a release that stands right up there with Wooden Shjips’ very best.

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