Joe Woodard listens to more than you. Way more. You might want to say, “Of course, he’s a musician and a music journalist, that’s his job,” but sometimes one’s calling comes before the paycheck (particularly if you’re a musician or a music journalist, ba-dum-bum). As guitarist-composer for Santa Barbara’s Headless Household he’s helped music wander far and far-er, as album titles such as mockhausen and post-Polka just begin to intimate. And as a writer, well, he no doubt has penned enough column inches in periodicals ranging from the SB Independent to Downbeat to the LA Times that if you lay them end-to-end you could walk on them to the Montreux Jazz Festival*, which Joe would no doubt be covering.
What’s more important for the subject at hand, he listens more, too, in that way listening is deconstructive, reconstructive, a creative act.
So when his semi-occasional “rock ’n’ droll band” (his term) flapping, Flapping (his capitalization) offers a song like “Tuesday Afternoon” on its latest and third album seeyoutonite (his spacing), its horn break will make you think Beatlesque. But Woodard, no doubt, thinks of a specific Beatles moment, when he first heard it, who else has nicked it, and who arranged the charts each time. Other songs on the disc will tickle your memory receptors for bands as diverse as Steely Dan, Radiohead, Little Feat, Neil Young, Van Halen, Peter Gabriel, The Move, maybe even Terry Allen.
All of that adds up to seeyoutonite being a total delite. (Couldn’t resist.) It’s an engaging stroll down rock and pop’s hallway of mirrors with a brilliant guide to give you only the best reflections, aided by many of the best Santa Barbara musicians, in particular the one other remaining original player in the band, drummer Tom Lackner. Versatility is Lackner’s watch word, as he can swing, drive, parry, thrust, keep so much aloft.
And there is much, for while the album does hold classic FM radio sound as its lodestar—heck, I called it an album!—it also ranges far and wide for texture, nuance, grace. Take accordionist Brian Mann’s appearances. On “Something for Nothing” he helps add to the Tex-Mex flavor that perhaps passes through Talking Heads’ True Stories for a quick tequila shot, and when he returns for “Wonder in the Backyard,” his squeezebox is distinctly more Gallic, perhaps setting us up for the song to return as a recitative in French. Diversity like that makes me toss my beret skyward.
Hooky as heck—check the tasty lick that opens “Closet World”—willing to wade neck deep in the sea of cliché figuring there might still be a swell swell to still ride to shore—one tune is bravely called “Boy Meets Girl”—and ever able to engage with Woodard’s truest love jazz without ever becoming archly academic (the parts in French are about asparagus) or pointlessly improvisational (the one instrumental CRANKS), seeyoutonite has something for everyone, which can happen when a band’s previous album came out the same year Clinton beat Dole for his second term.
*Walking under oceans not recommended.