Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Smokin’” by The Woodentops from the 2014 album Granular Tales on Cherry Red.
As they traveled through the 1980s UK indie scene, The Woodentops’ adventurous musical spirit and constantly vital live performances embodied the shifting nature of the era. Led by singer/guitarist Rolo McGinty, the group – which also includes guitarist Simon Mawby, bassist Frank De Freitas, drummer Paul Hookham, and keyboardist Alice Thompson – initially emerged in 1983 with a organic, rockabilly-influenced sound that stood as a sharp contrast from the sharp and gauzy guitars of the then-current wave of post punk groups. However, as the band progressed into the latter half of the decade, their live performances became more frenetic, unpredictable, and rhythm-based, becoming an early favorite of the then-burgeoning Ibiza scene. A series of dance-oriented remixes from Adrian Sherwood and Arthur Baker only bolstered their dance-friendly reputation, and the band continued touring through 1992 before calling it a day. In 2006, the band regrouped to put on sporadic live performances, and earlier this year, released their first album in 25 years, Granular Tales. (Read DJ El Toro’s glowing review of it here.) “Smokin’” is appropriately heady, riding a midtempo groove with Thompson’s vocalizations and Mawby’s blazing guitar leads serving as foils to McGinty’s rapid-fire growl. The trio’s tension is diffused by a steadily forceful beat from the rhythm section, who slip back into the dancefloor grooves they so readily pumped out two decades ago. More than anything, “Smokin’” feels fresh because it’s removed from the context of any scenes that may have overshadowed it during the band’s first run, leaving nothing but a sticky, sensuous track to shine.
The Woodentops play their next gig in France at the end of the month, but if they make plans to tour further, that news will be on their website and Facebook. Below, watch the band’s video for the Granular Tales track “Third Floor Rooftop High”.