Record review: Woodenbox – End Game [Olive Grove]

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End Game from Woodenbox presents an incredible collection of pounding, mariachi folk; the pace of this album doesn’t let off; it’s a spectacle of dirty drums, dirty vocals, party brass and great harmonies.

Opener ‘Roll for Me’ has you pounding your fist of the table from the get go; its howling vocal break through the happy chaos of the rest of the band quickly revealing this song to be a bit of an anthem and, I can imagine, a great set closer.

The middle section takes a quick change as the band break into a jazz fueled trumpet solo that lends itself to the image of old dirty jazz bars filled with smoke and booze.

‘Courage’ brings down the pace and volume a little as its Americana guitar sounds are expertly placed and its chorus fantastically sing-able.

The intro to ‘Kings Lair’ disguises itself as a slow, acoustic ballad but not for long as the song’s second beginning comes from a gritty re-imagining of the Aristocrats or a burlesque nightmare with its classic honky-tonk piano part so prominent.

‘Royal Mile’ could easily be polished and break the mainstream market with its four part harmonies and folksy guitar, however the verse’s bassline gives a subtle peak of the bands gritty underbelly and chorus takes us back to the folk-rock sound hinted to at the beginning and the outro’s groove gives this track true character.

‘Beautiful Terrible’ is brass heavy, quick paced, danceable and perfect and ‘Everyone Has a Price’ is a brilliant piece of songwriting feeling twisted while telling a sad story and exploring some interesting sounds.

‘Easy Life’ fits perfectly after this epic and its soft folk guitar part speaks to the current folk revival and the vocals feel soulful and raw; this stillness is quickly disturbed by the rough but epic chorus, closing with a gypsy waltz on the piano, guitar and organ this track is probably the most calm on the album.

‘Race to the Flood’ starts frantically and gives more of the same as the chorus sways and sings before breaking desperately into the scurrying verse, while ‘Asphyxiation’ is a lumbering rock song sprinkled with brass swells and aching guitar and vocal tones.

Final track ‘Save Yourself’ gives a caricature of modern culture and beg for the listener to save themselves from its clutches, it features more of the same pounding that opens this record but is interspaced with breaks of harmonious vocals.

End Game is brilliantly produced, brilliantly written and brilliantly performed; the songwriting blends many original styles with more progressive structures creating some of the best folk rock songs you’ll here anywhere.

It might well be one of my favorite albums so far this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if this saw Woodenbox rise in profile yet again this year.

Words: Alex Hynes

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