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Hard Knox

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Album Review

James Jackson Toth is the former frontman and chief songwriter for the indie post-hippie unit Wooden Wand. Hard Knox is a collection of songs demoed at one time or another for possible inclusion on Wooden Wand recordings, rather than on his solo offerings (hence the moniker "Wand" listed on the cover). "The Wand" writes a long apologia liner essay in which he defends himself, if not his songs, on the sleeve of the digipack cover of this CD. He claims to know that most demo collections are mostly bogus. And he's right. He then goes on to defend himself by claiming these tracks are actually songs rather than his experiments in "doom zydeco" or "surf harmonica." Apparently he has many more of these collections — but says he's spared us 95 percent of them and we should be grateful. So why didn't these songs make it onto Wooden Wand recordings proper? Disregarding his own reasons for not releasing them — and he details them in the essay — they're simply substandard as songs. Some melodies are so sketchy that they're barely there ("Chrome"); in others the lyrics are so obvious and repetitive that the tracks are a bore (even a song with a bridge, such as "Lady of Situations") or the lyrical concepts are so wordy and obtuse and the melodies so unimaginative that one wonders why they're included here. That doesn't mean, for Wooden Wand and Toth fans in general, there isn't charm here. The kind of abandon and reckless speed at getting these tracks down is apparent in all of them. Sometimes a clumsy lyric line might have been tightened, but in the interest of not forgetting the tune, its incomplete or unedited skeleton was recorded for the sake of capturing a spark. Some cuts, such as "Dark Is Bending," with its swampy blues feel and half worked-out architecture, have enough of a groove to allow one to give the words a pass. So while there is nothing inherently wrong with what's here — other than it apparently wasn't good enough to make the cut — the question is simply why issue this at all? Is it a stopgap between albums? An exercise in megalomania? Simply the desire to share one's "mistakes" with others? All three? It hardly matters. It's here, and the hardcore faithful will snap it up. The rest of us will either never hear it in the first place or, if we do, will remain unconverted to Toth fandom. His proper recordings are different altogether and should be checked out, and to be fair, Wooden Wand finished on a high note, but this set is reserved for members of the cult.


Genre: Rock

Years Active:

Los Angeles-based garage fuzz quartet Wand formed in 2013, pulling together guitarist/vocalist Cory Hanson, drummer Evan Burrows, guitarist Daniel Martens, and bassist Lee Landey as purveyors of sludgy, psychedelic garage rock. They quickly put together an abundance of material that straddled the line between melodic and noise-heavy, issuing split singles with artists like Mikal Cronin and Meatbodies before being signed by Ty Segall to his Drag City spinoff label God? for the release of their 2014...
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Hard Knox, Wand
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