Baby Woodrose, Kicking Ass and Taking Names: Gone Yesterday, Here Tomorrow

Seems likely that Copenhagen psych-garage aficionados Baby Woodrose have a considerable backlog of unreleased material. Before the band led by guitarist/vocalist Lorenzo Woodrose, also of Dragontears, released their righteously cool 2012 sixth full-length, Third Eye Surgery (review here), they preceded it with a 2011 comp of early demos titled Mindblowing Seeds and Disconnected Flowers (review here). The new collection, Kicking Ass and Taking Names, also dips back to the beginnings of the band, and from the second one unfolds the six-panel Bad Afro Records digipak (or, presumably, opens the vinyl), there’s an archival feel. Lorenzo Woodrose himself offers liner notes extolling the virtues of the B-side as an opportunity to experiment and gives recording dates and circumstances for each of the comp’s 14 tracks, spanning years from early 2002 to 2013, and as he explains it, there’s more on offer than just B-sides. The tracks “Coming Around Again” and “I Feel High” were released together as a single in 2008, and “Light up Your Mind” and “Bubblegum” came out together through Bad Afro last year. Covers of The Troggs‘ “6654321” and Otis Redding‘s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” (which Humble Pie also covered in 1973) end each half of the tracklist and represent the earliest material included, coming from the band’s Feb. 2002 first session with their original lineup. Of course, with variation in the years of release, production and lineup, Kicking Ass and Taking Names has a few notable jumps in sound, but a remaster for everything included gives some sense of flow to the collection’s 36-minute course.

Really, the structure of Kicking Ass and Taking Names isn’t that of a compilation of individual, standalone tracks, but of a previously unreleased EP plus enough bonus cuts to extend it to full-length. While they were subsequently released on singles, the first five tracks — “Information Overload,” “Good Day to Die,” “Coming Around Again,” “I Feel High” and “Making My Time” — come from the same session, recorded by the late Ralph Rjeily in 2007 and issued in drips and drabs in the years since. Those with prior exposure to Baby Woodrose‘s fervent worship of 13th Floor Elevators-style psychedelia will be right at home with “Information Overload”‘s space-rocking thrust and Woodrose‘s own howls echoing up from the swirl. I’ve always considered his style to have similar roots to those of Monster Magnet‘s Dave Wyndorf, but Woodrose‘s approach is looser, the material it tops less concerned with sprawl. “Good Day to Die” is an early highlight the energy of which is a precursor to some of what arrives later on side B’s (can you have a side B on a collection of B-sides?) “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” and “Live Wire,” while “Coming Around Again” delivers a poppier take and “I Feel High” backs it with acoustic-based lysergics, a steady undercurrent of fuzz and organ making a complex mix sound simple. That track builds but remains drumless, leaving the buzz of “Making My Time” to sum up the preceding four with organ start-stops, echoing space and an easy, right-on groove. As ever, Woodrose remains a strong presence, but I wouldn’t discount the organ work of Fuzz Daddy either, which is featured in a solo in the song’s second half.

“Long Way Down,” put to tape in 2009, is more upbeat but no less psychedelic, and the garage fuzz in the guitar backs Baby Woodrose‘s songwriting prowess, which is on display here as ever. Let’s be honest, if you were ever going to have clunkers, it would probably be on the rarities/B-sides outing, but even in “6654321,” which is a rougher recording, they keep a singularly cool vibe. The start of side B offers clarity with the most recent material here, “Light up Your Mind” and the let’s-give-TheKinks-a-run-for-their-money “Bubblegum” having been recorded in 2011, before diving back to the 1967 psych of “Too Far Gone,” somehow transplanted in time to a 2002 studio. “Too Far Gone” is the only song on Kicking Ass and Taking Names under two minutes long, and it’s followed by the two longest tracks, 2009’s “Beat City” (a cover of The Raveonettes at 3:07) and 2005’s “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” (4:01), an audible shift in recording quality from the older piece to the newer one made less apparent through a likewise shift in approach from upbeat electrics to more laid-back mid-paced acoustic-led psychedelics, Woodrose taking up a bluesharp for the latter before the heavy rock rush of “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” kicks in. Baby Woodrose have always had a bit of punk in them, and “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” excellently melds that with early Hawkwindian blastoff and a strong hook to make one of the compilation’s most resonant impressions. The following “Live Wire,” also from 2005, is no less driving, a constant kick drum filling out the guitar pauses in the verse and chorus and what sounds like improvised channel-spanning leads at the end, and while they did it faster than Otis Redding, “That’s How Strong My Love Is” still provides a soulful and memorable finish to Kicking Ass and Taking Names, showing that even at the band’s roots there’s a penchant for incorporating a range of styles into their own.

That propensity has served and hopefully will continue to serve Baby Woodrose well as they continue to move forward. Kicking Ass and Taking Names probably won’t be the place to start if you’ve never encountered them before — to that end I’d say go with Third Eye Surgery to see where they’re at now — but as a document of some of their less-heard material, it’s both an intriguing look at their development and a more than solid fan piece. You can tell reading the liner notes that Woodrose is a vinyl hound. Not to mention the record labels in the artwork, he’s got all the info here that any future historian or completist could want, and the songs themselves provide likewise fodder for those who would delve into their psyched-out depths.

Baby Woodrose, Kicking Ass and Taking Names (2014)

Baby Woodrose on Bandcamp

Bad Afro Records

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