The Woolen Men // Options
Recommended Track(s): Paladin/Returns
Abe Simpson could heckle the Woolen Men via megaphone and these 3 Portlandians would never choke under pressure (if they would even acknowledge such a thing.) Fresh off the ultra-stellar Temporary Monument, they offer up the Options EP without celebration, champion’s parade or victory lap. There’s something to be said for this “clock-in, clock-out” work ethic. For all our airy bohemian ideas of expression it’s easy to forget that there’s a grind to music and that some of the best artists among us recognize note-craft as a trade.
Title track “Options” has all of the same feelings of post-modern aimlessness that is a hallmark of the Clash’s “Lost In The Supermarket”, but is finely (dare I say artisanal?) sculpted post-punk. There’s zero fat, it’s properly buffed and sanded, with no undefined or inarticulate edges. “Paladin/Returns” has thought-provoking blood running through its unapologetic punk rock veins. When that snare-roll gives way to that call-sans-response verse, its feels venomous. There’s an under-stated chill to closer “Minor White”, every word is a pillow for every thought in your head, every snare hit is warm and assured, the bass rolls and bounces like a drunk spring cleaning the basement, the guitar is doing what it’s supposed to do: perform the role of sonic adhesive to hold it all together.
What I do hope, however, is that the ethic doesn’t give way to formula. Because we’ve seen what happens when jangly-angular post-punk revivalists pummel themselves into complete devotion to a musical path—looking at you Love of Diagrams (even though I still love you.) With the Woolen Men, their clever approaches and re-inventions are in danger of regressing into typical 90s alt-slacker miasma (“Scarlet”), which some might have an appreciation for but will eventually bore me to tears. I’d love for a band like this to start wielding unexpected influences: Rudimentary Peni, Crass or Poison Girls. Throw me a curve! Put those astute observations and lyrical know-how to work with something a little more serrated.
Now granted, this is an EP. When you’re this solid, this on-point, this charismatic as a unit, you don’t necessarily need to reassess and tool around with the method. Especially after such a victory as Temporary Monument. In the words of Conor McGregor: there are options. Whatever the Woolen Men choose to do, I’ll be listening. After all, how often does a 6 song EP where I only liked 4 of the songs inspire 400 words?