The Proper Ornaments - Wooden Head

by Andy Brown Rating:7 Release Date:2014-06-09

Back in the 1950s, Eddie Cochran wisely informed us that, “There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues”. The guy was right but while feeling melancholic in the heat of the summertime can make you feel a little at odds with the world, sometimes all you really need is the right musical accompaniment. Wooden Head, the debut album from London-based upstarts The Proper Ornaments, ticks all the right boxes for the ideal summer companion for any discerning indie-pop fan.

The band is based around the joint-songwriting abilities of Max Claps and James Hoare. Claps arrived in London from Buenos Aires in 2008, meeting Hoare and quickly forming a bond over a shared love of The Velvet Underground, Love and Felt.

They released their debut single back in 2010 but Hoare has been fairly busy elsewhere, sharing vocal duties with Roxanne Clifford as part of the wonderful Veronica Falls. There’s certainly some shared musical ground between the two bands, Hoare’s vocal delivery and songwriting style leaving an imprint on both. Together, Claps and Hoare form the strong sense of songwriting craftsmanship at the centre of Wooden Head.

Claps and Hoare write deceptively simple indie-pop songs which take on influences from the less noise-driven aspects of The Velvet Underground to the classic pop melodies of The Go-Betweens. The pop-psychedelia of The Beatles is never too far away either. So the joyous ‘Step into the Cold’ borrows from Loaded-era Velvets while the reflective ‘What Am I to Do’ takes a few hints from White Album classic ‘Dear Prudence’ (in turn recalling Beatles devotee Elliot Smith). Unfettered pop songs, drenched in melody and harmonies, are the order of the day here and the album certainly holds a rather uncomplicated charm.  

Clocking in at just 36 minutes Wooden Head demands successive spins, the melodies creeping into your subconscious in the process. If there’s any criticism, it’s that despite the plethora of influences the album is all fairly one-pace. Nothing leaps out of the speakers like it would do on a Velvets album yet their influence is nigh-on undeniable.

However, the album's subtle, sad-eyed charms remain tantalisingly addictive; I’ve not really had it off my headphones for the last few days. The record's appeal doesn’t really lie in any of its influences' experimental urges but in the pure joy of a well-delivered pop song. There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues, but Wooden Head might help ease the pain.

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