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Types of Wood

Whirlwind Heat

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Album Review

On their first album, Do Rabbits Wonder?, Whirlwind Heat named all of their songs after colors, and on the Flamingo Honey EP, they delivered ten one-minute-long tracks. Their second album, Types of Wood — which, when paired with Terry Richardson's sexy-kitschy cover photo, is a title that's colorful in an entirely different way — isn't so overtly conceptual, but its songs are united by their stripped-down, surprisingly restrained sound. There's a lot more space in the band's music here, especially when compared to the densely packed outbursts of Do Rabbits Wonder? The band actually shouts "Nothingness!" on "Slugger," which bops along on one of the album's many heavy-yet-bouncy basslines. This spaciousness allows the band's latent pop tendencies finally to come to the front on songs like "Reagan": with more structure, hooks, and melodies than they usually deliver, it's easily one of Whirlwind Heat's catchiest tracks. Likewise, "Up-Tight"'s alternately slinky and pummeling rhythms and Moog doodles benefit from the album's more expansive sound. However, the streamlined approach doesn't always work, particularly on the more experimental tracks. "Captain Cave," "French," and "My Electric Underwear" all feel listless and a little too purposefully empty. Only the eight-minute-long album closer, "Nylon Heart," which boasts a chainsaw and birdsong breakdown and an extended analog synth jam, balances the band's previously freewheeling modus operandi and this album's pared-down aesthetic. There's a strong '90s vibe to Types of Wood — virtually every track is a shout-out to when thudding basslines and shouted or mumbled non sequiturs dominated indie rock. That's not especially surprising, considering that most of Whirlwind Heat's influences helped define that era, but sometimes it feels like the bandmembers are still figuring out how to put their own imprint on this sound. Beck — with whom the band toured before Types of Wood was released — remains a major touchstone for Whirlwind Heat, with "Umbrella People" and "Gene Pool Style" (two of the album's best songs) sharing the noisy, slackery whimsy of his earlier work. Having gone from the spazziness of their debut album to the micro-noise-pop of Flamingo Honey to this poppier take on their sound, Whirlwind Heat are nothing if not versatile. This time, though, the band may have brought a little too much order to its chaos.


Formed: 1996 in Grand Rapids, MI

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

The Moog rock trio Whirlwind Heat — whose name comes from the cover artwork for Sonic Youth's album Goo — features vocalist/keyboardist David Swanson, bassist Steve Damstra, and drummer Brad Holland. Initially, the Grand Rapids, MI-area trio, who have been friends since fourth grade, had a more traditional guitar-bass-drums setup when they began playing in 1996, inspired by the likes of the Melvins and Mudhoney. The following year, however, Swanson switched from guitar to keyboard for...
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Types of Wood, Whirlwind Heat
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