There seem to have been a lot of reissues recently, which isn’t helping me kick the record buying habit. I’m going to look at some of what I’ve been buying over the next wee while and thought I’d start with ‘Before, During, After’ – a reissue of the Woodentops back catalogue.
A three CD set, the first is based around debut LP ‘Giant’, the second features second album ‘Woodenfoot Cops on the Highway’ whilst the last collects together various non-LP tracks including tracks from the early singles.
In terms of the substantive releases ‘Giant’ has aged well. After the energy of the early singles its pop sheen was something of a surprise back in the day but there’s little doubt that, with the benefit of hindsight, it was the correct approach. It works particularly well on the slower material such as ‘Everything Breaks’, Give It Time’ and ‘So Good Today’ whilst the likes of ‘Good Thing’ proves that they could still bring the noise when necessary.
Despite including none of the early singles, it is a really strong collection of songs. If there’s a criticism of the record it is that the production tends to smooth out the differences between some of the tunes. But overall ‘Giant’ is probably a bit better than I remember it.
The extra tracks include several remixes and in general these are amongst the better examples of 80s remixes. Arguably ‘Good Thing’ is the best of these even if it amounts to little more than an extended version. There’s a slightly annoying breakdown in the middle of the song but the extended crescendo at the back end of the song is wonderful.
Initially I was thinking that ‘Woodenfoot Cops On The Highway’ was going to be better than the inconsistent LP that I remembered. The first side is pretty good, even if it’s not quite as good as ‘Giant’, and the second gets off to a great start with ‘Stop This Car’.
But thereafter it dips significantly in quality, perhaps not surprisingly since the sleeve notes state that the whole thing was written in a few short weeks. Again the remixes fare well particularly the beautifully constructed extended version of ‘Stop This Car’ which makes the LP version sound unnecessarily truncated.
There’s also a handful of songs for what would have been the third Woodentops album. Not unexpectedly they’re a mixed bag – ‘Surely’ would have made a terrific single (surely) but the rest are not nearly of the same standard.
The rarities CD is all over the shop. It starts with the absolute brilliance of the early singles, all four of which are included here (albeit one or two in slightly different mixes). I can never make my mind up which is my favourite – they all have a claim. There’s the bonus addition of three B-sides including the just as good as the A-sides ‘Have You Seen The Lights’.
Inevitably the rest of the CD doesn’t live up to the same standard. Indeed it ends up with some frankly quite ropey techno with assorted (good) remixes and live tracks in between.
Ultimately ‘Before, During, After’ provides plenty of proof that the Woodentops were creatively restless and constantly on the move. Even if their artistic decisions were not necessarily always the best.
Given the price though this is a fascinating document of one of the 80s most underrated acts which is well worth investigating.
Not really a video …