Band: The Woodentops.
Personnel: Rolo McGinty, vocals, guitar; Simon Mawby, guitar; Alice Thompson, keyboards; Frank De Freitas, bass; Bennie Staples, drums.
History: This London-based group gained attention with the release of its first single, "Plenty" in 1984. The group proceeded to dominate the British independent charts with four No. 1 singles on the influential underground label Rough Trade in 1985. Gaining raves from the British press, the group was also acclaimed by the Smiths' singer Morrissey, who insisted the Woodentops tour with his band--until a practical joke by vocalist McGinty involving Morrissey and an exploding cigarette pack got the group thrown off the Smiths' last English tour. A compilation EP of the group's singles, "Well, Well, Well," some of them produced by Andy Partridge of XTC, was recently released in America by a new independent label, Upside Records. A video of the group's "It Will Come" was recently added to MTV. The band has been working with English Beat producer Bob Sargeant on its debut album, due next month on Columbia.
Sound: Combining a cool, smooth vocal style, driving rockabilly rhythms, spectral, '60s-flavored keyboards and frantically strumming acoustic guitars, the Woodentops have come up with a sound that is both familiar and fresh. An electric blend of lithe folk-rock homeyness and turbo-charged garage-band fervor, the Woodentops' music filters the eerie atmospherics of vintage Doors and Velvet Underground through the recent neo-psychedelia of groups like the Teardrop Explodes and Echo & the Bunnymen. But for all its influences, the Woodentops' sound remains strikingly individual, offering themes of joy and expectation tinged with paranoia. If the group's live show measures up to its striking recordings, this should be one of the more exciting rock 'n' roll debuts this year.
Shows: The Roxy, Friday; the Spirit (San Diego), Saturday.