Johnny Society

Wood

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Whereas the colorful production on the first record had a tendency to implement a sonic uniformity from time to time on songs that were actually extremely unique, the band allows their idiosyncrasies -- and more importantly, their songs -- to speak for themselves on Wood. The kaleidoscopic production is a more understated match for the muse. The music is still loaded with such curious instrumentation as Mellotron and Optigan (and great Dobro from Chris Whitley on "Breakin' Me"), but it is never employed in a way that obscures or buries the melodies. What that leaves is a dozen frequently exceptional, always-disparate cuts. Kenny Siegal's songwriting is even more carnival-esque than on the first album, still betraying a sizable psychedelic Beatles slant ("Circles," "Crawling Under My Skin") and referencing the Move and T-Rex, but also adding a prog rock complexity and dark atmosphere, even showing a vocal debt to Ozzy Osborne on "Falling." The playing -- mostly from Siegal and cohort Brian Geltner, both multi-instrumentalists who at this time essentially were the totality of Johnny Society -- is never short of exceptional. Geltner's slinky glam rhythms behind the trap set lend a room-filling thump and power to the songs that occasionally approach the heavy stomp of John Bonham, only lead-free and with a more musical quality that gives the music its propulsive edge. The album is not a dramatic advance in any easily discernible way from the debut, but the growth that took place between albums is actually considerable. Instead of sounding like the work of a band with unlimited potential, Wood makes good on all the band's promise, displaying Herculean levels of musical confidence and opening up new, sweeping possibilities for Johnny Society, and for rock music in general. With all the best bands throughout rock history, each album seems like an event unto itself while you're listening to it and each sounds like a progression, pointing in infinite numbers of new directions without sounding frayed or stretched to its limits. Wood made Johnny Society two-for-two on that count. The album still bares some less successful ideas, but the band also shows that it is never content with conventional sound and is willing to take dramatic chances and push itself in ways that most bands never approach. This second record is already a transitional effort, and one that coyly keeps concealed the band's next move, a wonderful (and infrequently encountered) trait. And if there is one thing that the first two efforts prove, it is Johnny Society's propensity for remarkable progression.

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