The Wooden Faces
Flying The Wrong Way
Kitchen Disco Records
Indie Americana From the Foothills of Ironopolis and the Tees Delta.
While I was looking at something on You Tube I came across a very bleak but interesting video shot entirely in Mono, with the guy (wearing a black face mask) wandering around a town centre that is clearly in lockdown.
‘The streets are filled with ghosts in black‘ as he seeks out ‘the edge of town’ and I found out it was Dan Donnelly and he was filming in Stockton on Tees, just down the road from me (and RMHQ).
Dan is well known in NE music circles and I became even more intrigued when I realised that Blast Studios in Ouseburn, Newcastle were involved in this project.
When I was approached about writing a review for the album release of the band in that video (The Wooden Faces) I didn’t hesitate too long especially when I found out (via a Narc Magazine article) that the basic ideas had been devised in Newcastle’s The Tanners Arms.
The release was actually produced on both cassette and digital in Blast and anyone purchasing the album gets the said cassette and a digital download too, at no extra cost.
A great gimmick but one that would mean nought if the actual tracks weren’t up to the interesting story of the project itself. The trio of Dan, Anth Mills on drums and Goulven Hamel on guitar haven’t let us down with an album showing several influences on a diverse set of tracks.
The opener ‘Way To Be Saved’ does what a first track should do – great riffs and a toe tapper to get the listener in the mood and ‘Turn Your Mind’ could easily have come off an album by Tom Petty.
On first listen I was expecting ‘Edge of Town’ to be the standout track after the video but I had a number of pleasant surprises to make me change that opinion.
For an album recorded in lockdown it would not have been a shock for it to be a bit doom and gloom but I love the jangling guitars on several tracks especially ‘Trust Me’ and ‘Bright Life’ which keeps the listener upbeat at a downbeat time generally.
Dan has previously mentioned the influence of REM, The Pixies and Tom Petty on his work, and I suppose all are evident in some tracks but there is enough originality for this to be viewed on its own worth.
‘Flower of Regret’ and ‘Give Your Life Away’ (a nod to Billy Joel?) continue the upbeat feel and the more I listened the more I felt that The Wooden Faces would be a smashing band to see as and when we are ‘released’ to see live music again – this would make a great gig at our local intimate venues; where the crowd are genuinely more interested in the stage and not the bar. Although at this stage, I should mention that the band name comes from their nickname of The Gueule de Bois’ brothers meaning hangover in French (face of wood) so they might dash to the bar post-gig!
To me in would fall into ‘Indie Country’ but I would be open to arguments on that it should just fall into ‘Indie’; but the three closing tracks are all (to me) leaning towards ‘Country’ or at least Americana; and I loved ‘For Loving You’ and ‘One Winged Angel’ to edge out ‘Edge of Town’ for the Favourite Tracks award.
At a time when live gigs look to be as far away as ever it’s great to get a little gem like this to listen to – they would definitely finish a set with ‘Blue Moon’ and you will understand that when you hear either the cassette or (more likely) the digital version.
I wish the trio the best of luck with their project. Well worth a listen and not just for the novelty of the package – the music is just as good.
A Cassette Release (but do we get a pencil winder with it?)
Released 12th June 2020
Courtesy Bill Redhead