Rob Clarke and The Wooltones – Putting The L In Wootones: Album Review

Merseybeat meets Psychedelia meets quirky Scouse humour. That’s Putting The L In Wootones.

Release Date:  21st August 2020

Label: Bandcamp (UK); Kool Cat Music (USA)

Formats: CD / DL

On a cold morning in early January 2021, a delightful, quirky little album packed with pastiche Merseybeat and authentic late 60s psychedelia, liberally laced with left-field Scouse humour, landed in my inbox.  It was Putting The L In Wootones, the new album from Liverpool’s Rob Clarke and The Wooltones, and its nostalgic, enlivening tones warmed an otherwise freezing day.

The Wooltones are Rob Clarke on guitar and vocals (he also writes the songs…), Pepe Hoonose on drums and GP Chesters on bass and Putting The L In Wootones is the band’s fourth album, their first since 2018’s Are You Wooltoned?  They take their name from their locality of origin – the environs of St Peter’s Church, Woolton, Liverpool. That place where the famous first meeting of Messrs Lennon and McCartney on that history-changing day occurred back in July 1957 and they wear their legacy loudly, proudly and not without a pinch of self-parody. 

My interest was instantly sparked by the press handout, which promised an album with a “psych/60s/Mersey/West Coast feel…with lashings of wider cultural references including 60s America, Trump, Brexit, Johnson and the UK’s 1971 switch to decimal currency.”  And, happily, this is an album that delivers exactly what it says on the tin.

The sound is an amalgam of The Beatles (or, perhaps more accurately, The Rutles) and The Bonzos with dustings of Creedence and a strong flavour of Nuggets-era psychedelia (think The Standells or The Thirteenth Floor Elevators) mixed in.  And as for the lyrics; well, they’re uniquely Rob Clarke’s, although if you can imagine some of the more outré Half Man Half Biscuit offerings, you’ll get the picture.  The album was actually released in August 2020 but, with lockdown and everything, the band haven’t had the chance to promote it by live performance or word-of-mouth, so apologies for the late notice!

Opening track Big Big Bad Bad John sets the scene with its insistent Bo Diddley guitar riff, backed by crashing drums overlaid by some nice psychedelic guitar effects.  The song builds as it progresses, as the “Big Bad John” refrain mutates to “Big Bad Boris…”  Second track Love and Haight achieves a real late 60s San Francisco feel. Its solid Taxman riff provides the foundation for tasty fuzz guitar and organ licks that ooze peace, love and acid dreams.

The album’s first single, Adrian Henri, is a eulogy (of sorts) to the eponymous late Liverpool poet.  Its dreamy, stream-of-consciousness lyrics include a reference to No Hope Street (Hope Street was the epicentre of the 60s Liverpool cultural scene and the setting for Henri’s painting, The Day of the Dead) and ends with a wonderful pair of couplets: “Adrian Henri – Never wrote me a poem, Adrian Henri – Now I don’t know where I’m going, Adrian Henri – You’re such a miserable get, Adrian Henri – But it’s a pity you’re dead. “I have a feeling he might have quite liked that.

Statue On The Pier Head is another curio.  Set to the Shakin’ All Over riff, the song’s lyrics imagine the statue of Captain FJ ‘Johnnie’ Walker condemning youthful passers-by as “Juvenile Delinquents” and urging them to “Get their hair cut.”  The Forecast Near You is a pleasant early-Beatles-y number whilst, in contrast, the hypnotic and compelling Free is the closest thing on the album to a full psychedelic workout.

The hilarious Countdown is a wonderful slice of left-field doggerel which aligns the 1971 decimalisation shake-up to the end of the British Empire and the dissolution of The Beatles, takes a sidewards-look at metrication (“Two and a quarter pounds of jam, weigh about a kilogramme” – a phrase that was used in all seriousness back in the early 70s to help convert the masses to using the ‘new’ measures), tells the story of the “Greedy people of Nelson and Colne who stole all Burnley’s oranges ” and finally enacts the song’s title by counting down from 10 to 1, not just in English, but in French and German too!  Splendid stuff!!

Two Lane Blacktop and penultimate track It’s Only You both sound like pre-fame Beatles compositions, as presented by The Rutles, and album closer, Alright, is a short, sharp and punchy swipe at public, media and government apathy towards ocean pollution and climate change.

This is an album that offers light relief, enjoyment and justified provocation during these difficult times.  It’s brightened up a gloomy day for me, and I heartily recommend that you let it do the same for you.

Watch the video for Love And Haight (from the album) here:

Rob Clarke and The Wooltones online: Website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ YouTube

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