It's been a bit more than a quarter century since the Woodentops last released an album, and 2014's Granular Tales doesn't suggest the reunited band has tried to make an album that would convince us nothing has changed since Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway dropped in 1988. This edition of the Woodentops -- in which original members Rolo McGinty (vocals), Simon Mawby (guitar), and Frank de Freitas (bass) are joined by drummer Paul Ashby, pianist Richard Thomas, and keyboardist Aine O'Keeffe -- lacks a bit of the youthful energy of their heyday, with slower tempos and melodies that sound more contemplative than their work of the '80s, and Granular Tales reveals significantly less of the acoustic undertow they delivered on their touchstone album, 1986's Giant. But the steady pulse and frequent percussive bursts that dominate these songs certainly hark back to the Woodentops' beat-crazy glory days, and also provide a bridge to the dance music that's been a major part of McGinty's post-Woodentops résumé. Granular Tales is the work of an older and more cautious band, but one that hasn't forgotten how to wind up and make its songs hop, and tunes like "A Pact," "Third Floor Rooftop High," and "Stay Out of the Light" could certainly fill up a dancefloor if given the chance (while "Every Step of the Way" and "A Little More Time" suggest a live band approaching the rudiments of electronic dance music, and with genuine success). And Mawby's guitar fits beautifully into these insistent arrangements. Granular Tales is a pleasant surprise -- an album that acknowledges the Woodentops' frantic glory days while offering them a way to move into the 21st century gracefully, and demonstrates how dance music can mature while still getting the party started; this doesn't exactly pick up where the Woodentops left off, but certainly finds them just where they want and need to be.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming