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- Wooden Wand & the World War IV by Wooden Wand
7/10 Mike Staff review, 17 October 2013
I have to admit I’ve always somewhat been in the “what’s all the fuss about” camp when it comes to James “Wooden Wand” Toth. It’s not that his work is bad, it’s certainly not offensive, but he churns it out at such a pace that I sometimes wonder if he stops to listen and check that it passes muster before it gets pressed.
That said, lately Toth has been making less records, taking more time with them, and on this and his previous LP ‘Briarwood’ he’s enlisted a team of buddies to back him up, dragging him into blues rock territory like Magnolia Electric Co meets Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Weirdy this record is the first time it has struck me how similar his voice sounds to Lee Ranaldo, who put out his own similarly flawed but workmanlike album just a week or two back. Both are strangely bloated and psychedelic offerings which exude that strange mixture of inspiration and obligation that you sometimes hear from musicians who are struggling for ideas but don’t know how to do anything else. Both showing enough genuine talent to keep the listener interested but neither delivering any songs that are particularly worth writing home about either. Much like Bonnie Billy before him, Toth seems to be able to put out perfectly respectable albums seemingly on a whim, but struggles to inject the magic one would hope from a songwriter of his standing.
9/10 Rob Customer review, 18th October 2013
This review is nonspecific enough to make me wonder what some actual examples from the record ostensibly being reviewed are: what's respectable? What magic needs to be injected where? And where is "all the fuss"?
I rarely see anything about Wooden Wand unless I go looking for it, like so. But--could it be that rather than not having ideas in their music, Toth and Ranaldo just write about ideas you don't necessarily get? Line in "Someday This Child Will Die" that goes "someday this child will die / Give him a reason to try to live forever" floors me in its simple profundity. I guess I don't see how that's missing any mark for quality songwriting. If reflections such as that one are not communicating something useful or insightful about the human condition, then I need to know what you're listening to that one-ups it. Because that's something I should hear.
PS--totally disagree with your assessment that Ranaldo and Toth sound similar. Because Ranaldo produced a WW record several years ago?
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