Raw to the bone and steeped in reflective, witty mannerisms delivered with a nonchalant charm, Benjamin Woods steps out from the figurative shadows of former projects and associations, and debuts his own solo artistic material of two contrasting EP’s, ‘And The Golden Dregs’ and ‘Nobody Ever Got Rich By Making People Sad’ under the new moniker The Golden Dregs.
Inventive pedigree is certainly strong with Ben Woods, as his creative muscle has been flexed behind the drum kit and mixing desk for years now with longtime standing and established bands such as Gorgeous Bully, Lost Dawn, The Black Tambourines. His exploits up in Manchester as a producer have certainly been noted, with his experimentalism within production coming to fruition in the Dr Roberts Basement Sessions: a project that explored stripping back classics from The Black Tambourines and Manchester’s own Brown Brogues. The Golden Dregs is now the physical entity of Ben Woods personality materialised in tangible form.
Name checking bands such as Cass McCombs or the kooky meanderings of The Silver Jews as the first track ‘Holly Would’ rings out from the ‘And The Golden Dregs EP’ wouldn’t be off kilter or ill informed to mention. The scratchy, juttering groove that spreads itself abroad the dingy, 60’s drip which supports Ben Woods surprisingly deep and hushed croon acts a definite ode to The Silver Jews ‘The Natural Bridge’ era of songwriting. ‘Layafette’ and ‘Thirteen’ both preach with the same jaunty abandon as the EP’s opener, hurling nonchalant grooves and enthusiastic lead hooks in a passively anarchic manner with ‘Rock and Roll is not Dead (I Just Got Hungry)’ taking this attitude a step further as it dips its toes in the waters of 50’s boggie woggie.
Pensive and reflective though, is the persona adorned by the parallel EP, ‘Nobody Got Rich At Making People Sad’, easily projecting its character as the more analytical and witty vessel of tunes that takes on life’s misfortunes and unravels them in a Real Estate and Grizzly Bear exterior. Opener ‘Asphalt’ glides along gloriously, sitting on a bed of glittering lead as the murky instrumentation of drums and vocals swamp the track in its beauty. Title track of the EP flaunts the adventurous nature of Ben Woods production as the Lou Reed esque ballad, mingled with tender guitar and piano, is embraced by the use of Cello amongst the chorus and middle section. ‘Looking For The Light Through The Pouring Rain’ is easily the most reflective and well-orchestrated song of the two EP’s offerings. Sullen and with lyrics that read in a melancholy manner demonstrates some of the angst shown by this EP, especially as such lines are delivered just before the song explodes into a driven escapade of whirling guitar and gnawing solos.
Providing a very broad and expansive first offering, ‘And The Golden Dregs’ and ‘Nobody Got Rich From Making People Sad’ is a diverse introduction to the self proclaimed ‘Anti-Garage’ style that Ben Woods has molded with his own hands. It proves that substance runs deep to have such a high output as a first debut and makes for what The Golden Dregs is doing eye catching for later releases.