Beyond suburbia: Woods’ frontman Jeremy Earl’s psychedelic musical forage

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Woods put its stake in the ground before rolling out several indie up-and-comers on its label Woodsist. Publicity Photo. Woods put its stake in the ground before rolling out several indie up-and-comers on its label Woodsist. Publicity Photo.

Woods may be from Brooklyn, but its music is utterly lacking in urbanity. The band’s sound comes from that place where the suburbs stop and the farmland begins. Since 2006, the prolific band has tempered its shambling garage fuzz with a homegrown, psychedelic folk flavor, finding surprising common ground between the Velvet Underground and CSNY.

Frontman Jeremy Earl sings in a high, nasal croon, which would almost be a provocation if Neil Young hadn’t already broken down that barrier decades ago. It’s a voice that will seem as comfortable as an old pair of shoes for some listeners, and like a pebble in that shoe for others.

Luckily for those in the latter category, Woods has plenty to offer in addition to Earl’s vocal talents—a dreamy haze of reverbating guitar rock, plenty of groovy noodling, and a handful of quieter, darker moments like the occasional lo-fi tape collage or the wandering, Jandek-esque half-songs that transform its records from mere collections of songs into aesthetically cohesive albums. While many of the tracks retain a home cassette-recorded grit, others show a clean, studio polished classic rock sound, and some even progress past that, into heavy psychedelic freak-outs. Woods’ style covers a broad range, but it’s all clearly coming from the same place.

Earl also operates the much beloved Woodsist record label, which made a name for itself issuing releases by cutting-edge indie favorites like Real Estate, Vivian Girls, Wavves, Crystal Stilts, The Fresh & Onlys, and Kurt Vile, just at the moment that those acts were on the verge of spilling over into national prominence. For years Woodsist (and its sister label, Hello Sunshine) have enjoyed a consistent run, occasionally pairing with like-minded contemporaries (MV&EE, Thee Oh Sees), mining for equally excellent acts that have yet to find a large following (Ryan Garbes, Herbcraft) and many that fall somewhere in-between (Moon Duo, White Fence). Anyone looking for exciting, contemporary, independent rock is advised to keep an eye out for the Woodsist label.

Though Woods is well-established and has a devoted following, there’s equal excitement about tour mate and relative newcomer Parquet Courts. Shout-singing wordy, would-be slacker slogans over nervously repetitive punk rhythms, Courts’ tactics owe much to The Fall, but have plenty of the surf sarcasm of the Dead Milkmen, and the groovy punk twang of The Meat Puppets, not to mention the steamroller energy of more recent acts like The Men. The Texans relocated to Brooklyn have been gathering acclaim since last year’s sophomore album, Light Up Gold, was re-issued by the What’s Your Rupture? label earlier this year.

Woods and Parquet Courts play the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar on Tuesday, July 23 with locals Left & Right opening. The show begins at 9pm and the cover charge is $8.

 

Classy by itself

 

Vinegar Hill Theatre continues its Cary Grant screenings, part of a summer series of monthly reparatory events co-presented by the Piedmont Council for the Arts. On July 18, Vinegar Hill shows the 1963 film Charade at 7:30pm.

Charade is a beloved classic, combining suspense, humor, and romance. It’s often mistaken for (or mis-remembered as) a Hitchcock film, and though it’s as exciting and well-plotted as some of Hitch’s best, it has an ease and charm frequently lacking from the master of suspense’s clinically constructed thrillers. The director is Stanley Donen, a prolific studio journeyman best known for his musicals, who employs a light touch that serves him well here. (He attempted to repeat the Charade formula again in his next film Arabesque, with significantly diminishing returns).

In Charade, Audrey Hepburn stars as a young widower who discovers in the wake of her late husband’s off-screen death that she didn’t know him as well as she thought. A menacing trio pursues her, demanding she hand over a supposed inheritance in the millions that she knows nothing about. In desperation, she turns to a handsome stranger, played by Grant, who proves so charming that she begins to doubt his motivations, especially as his reasons for helping her keep changing with each new revelation about her husband’s past.

In addition to the class and charm of the two iconic leads, the supporting cast is memorably strong: James Coburn is characteristically excellent as the ringleader of the villains, balancing broad comedy and cruel menace. As his accomplice, George Kennedy sticks to menace in a role that lets him showcase his manic, sweaty intensity. Walter Matthau rounds out the billing as a hilariously droll CIA agent who soon plays a bigger part, a reminder that Matthau’s range was a lot broader than the comedies he’s remembered for today.

Shot on location in Paris, and boasting a lovely score by Henry Mancini, Charade is great for a date night, for newcomers who have never seen it, and for those old enough to remember it from the first time around. The film plays to all ages, and holds up to repeat viewings.

It would only be proper for me to disclose that I manage the Vinegar Hill Theatre, and that this event is part of a program of monthly screenings that I helped to organize. Charade was not my suggestion, but I was delighted when my co-workers in the Staunton office proposed it, and I look forward to sharing it with a crowd of movie-lovers on Thursday. Tickets are the standard price ($10.50 for adults, with discounts for seniors, children, and students), and are available online, or in person at the Vinegar Hill box office.

 

What is your favorite Audrey Hepburn role? Tell us below…

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