Occasionally, when asked to review a reissue of an album, one discovers a band that failed, for one reason on another, to show up on the radar the first time around. Some of these discoveries are similar to opening a treasure chest that has been gathering dust in a dark corner only to reveal a wealth of (musical) gems. This is definitely the case with this The Woodentops, Before During After Reissue on the One Little Indian label from May 2013.

This 52 track 3CD set includes their first album ‘Giant’, the follow up album, ‘Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway’ (both remixed with additional rarities) and a 3rd CD of other Remixes and Rarities. So all in all an abundance of treasures to explore. Treasures whose value was recognised at the time by such fans as David Bowie (who invited them to support him), Morrissey and Noel Gallagher.

In 1984 Morrissey is reported to have said, “Anyone sane living in this world will realise on hearing ‘Plenty’ that The Woodentops bring with them a new age of enlightenment.” In September 2011 Noel Gallagher curated the cover mount CD for Mojo magazine and elected to include the Woodentops single ‘Why Why Why’.

The band formed in South London in 1982 and signed to Rough Trade. They soon gained a name for themselves with a string of well received singles. Their sound focuses on an array of percussive elements including cow bells, woodblock skulls, tom toms and tight rhythmic snares with electronic and rudimentary sampling creeping into the mix by 1986.

They were also something of a live fixture on the Spanish coast in the mid 80’s and DJs like Paul Oakenfold, Carl Cox, Andy Weatherall and Danny Rampling all recognised the greatness of the band. Kindred spirit Adrian Sherwood’s remixes dominate on these 3 CDs and all add to the range and variety of sounds on offer.

Many of the tracks here, especially the remixes, present themselves as indie/dance style single material and it is not surprising that the band were received so ecstatically by the club culture in the UK in the late 80s. Stand out tracks include the forementioned ‘Why Why Why’ that briefly placed the band at the forefront of the developing indie/dance crossover scene. The Latin American tinged ‘Give it Time’ and the hyper rhythmic ‘Get It On’ which stand out as sounding just as fresh today. There are so many tracks I could list here that reward close listening and exploration.

As I initially said The Woodentops passed me by at the time but I am so glad that I have had this opportunity to discover a band that have shown themselves to be such a class act. If discovering great music from the past and appreciating bands whose influences are still felt today is important to you then you could do no better than to discover The Woodentops.

Islwyn Paul Mainwaring

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