Since 2012 To The Woods have been forging a reputation based on their powerful and, in their words, ‘lairy’ live shows. In October 2015 they released their long-awaited debut album, recorded over the summer of 2014, with a spectacular show at The Fermain Tavern.
Having been recorded quite a while before its release the Those Deadbeats feels like something of a time capsule of To The Woods as, not only does it feature the bands original line up (with Jake Martel on bass, since replaced by James Ogier), it features songs that have since fallen from their live set.
The album starts off exactly as anyone who has seen the band would expect, with a grunge influenced sound over which the unique vocals of Robert Battle roar. Album opener Deadend in particular captures all of this well and brings to mind Nevermind-era Nirvana with a slightly more lo-fi and down to earth edge.
As the record goes on there is a surprising amount of dynamic in the band’s song writing with punky smashes to the face like Fire sitting alongside potentially more considered numbers such as The Ballad and even the seemingly autobiographical on the, in its way, witty, Taxi.
This sense of dynamic is something that can be lost when To The Woods are storming through a live set so its nice to be able to hear it here.
On top of this two of the tracks are clearly augmented with extra musicians in comparison to their live versions with Is This Rock and Roll featuring extra vocals and guitars from Sugarslam’s Pete Bretel and Last of the Light Brigade’s Tyler Edmonds while The Ballad features Tyler and, on distortion drenched violin, Gregory Harrison.
Unfortunately there are points on the record where the lo-fi grungy aesthetic goes a bit too far with drums and vocals occasionally getting lost in the mix behind walls of distorted guitar and surprisingly brittle cymbal sounds.
The other thing that seems to be lost, and I’ve no idea how you’d capture it, is some of the energy of To The Woods live performances. As this really is what has gained them their reputation it makes the album feel like it’s not all it could be. As I say though, quite how you’d capture this on record I don’t know.
What this all combines to make is something of a mixed bag, certainly its far from being a bad album and Those Deadbeats demonstrates many of things that make To The Woods what they, but I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing.
Note: I’ve been informed since publishing this that the originally released CD version of the album suffered some issues in the post-production process, a re-mastered edition is set to be released on Bandcamp
As well as Those Deadbeats October 2015 saw To The Woods release a self-titled EP.
While released simultaneously, the six-track collection was recorded a year later with the band’s new line up with James Ogier on bass and from the off the development is huge.
T’Otherside kicks things off like a comparative punch to the gut with deeper, thicker instrument tones as well as (for the most part) far more advanced songwriting.
Five of the six tracks have become highlights of the band’s live set in recent months with Hit The Switch and Burmuda being two of the band’s strongest songs.
This EP captures much more of their live essence than the album and, while Robert Battle’s unique stage presence and charisma will never be harnessed on record, this is a close second and certainly captures their sound far more suitably.
The songs here all have a more rounded feel to them retaining elements of the grungy, punk-ish sounds of the first album but added to this is a more hard indie aspect. In a recent interview the band said they started out wanting to play music similar to Brit rockers Reuben and what is captured here is certainly closer to that in tone, both in its production and songwriting, albeit in the band’s own style.
With all of this the production work from James Le Huray serves the songs far better here with studio effects used well to augment the songs and, in particular, offer definition to Battle’s constantly roaring vocals.
In comparison to Those Deadbeats the EP is a far more satisfying listen and manages to go someway to doing what remains impossible of capturing at least an aspect of the band’s live presence.