(Self-released, digital download)
2014 was a busy year for local four-piece psychedelic-funk-jam band Squimley and the Woolens. Their debut 10-track album, 10,000 Fire Jellyfish, dropped in April. In the months following, they gigged heavily and yet still found time to record and release a follow-up record, No Shame in the Cow Community, in mid-December. All that activity could have resulted in a half-assed sophomore effort. But No Shame is as successful as Squimley's debut. The album pays homage to improvisational jam vibes with saturated grooves built on repetitive progressions. And it proves that Squimley and the Woolens are more than just a basement band.
"Johnny Riptide" kicks things off. At turns fluid and frantic, it's a fitting opener that shows the band's freestyling chops. Throughout the album, Nick Ledak and Braden Lalancette play musical tic-tac-toe on the guitar and bass, respectively. The effect is seamless and trippy, particularly on "Flapjack." Opening with ghostly slide-guitar notes and slapping bass, it's a head-nodding good time and one of the album's strongest and spookiest cuts.
There's also plenty of heady, dripping bass, especially on the brooding fifth track, "Face Ripper." "Bros" is one of the album's more subdued and sophisticated numbers, matching Lincoln Frasca's muted drumming with Charlie McKenna's shimmering, eerie keys. The song demonstrates Squimley's new, albeit limited, attention to structure and rhythmic restraint.
McKenna also contributes low, hollow vocals throughout the album, his words meandering like deliciously drug-induced thoughts. Even if the songcraft is a bit lacking, the often-indecipherable quality of his lyrics pairs well with the hazy instrumentation.
At its best, the record explores cool sounds with sprawling instrumental segments, like the fluttering first minute of "Dead Squash Blues" or the bluesy end of "Rainsong." In its weaker moments, such as the lengthy "Jameson Leo," it caves to spacey embellishment. But these latter instances are few and far between.
Inviting you to "free your squimley" — whatever that means; it can only be sexual, right? — Squimley and the Woolens' No Shame in the Cow Community fits the funk-jam-band bill without succumbing to mere Phish imitation or Grateful Dead worship. Squimley's spontaneous showboating is, refreshingly, in service of musical experimentation and not self-aggrandizement. Jam fans: Tune in.
Squimley and the Woolen's No Shame in the Cow Community is available for download at squimleyandthewoolens.bandcamp.com.