When they pogoed out of Athens, Georgia’s fertile college-rock scene in the late 1980s, The Woggles felt like a gang of hyperactive garage-rock cosplayers who were born a couple decades too late. There was almost a novelty about them — their ‘60s period dress, their chosen stage names (Professor Mighty Manfred, for example), their neon, surf-inspired album cover art … even the way they rocked.
Now, it seems more correct to simply call The Woggles a great, largely overlooked rock ‘n’ roll band that has stuck closely to its eccentric vision for three decades.
The latest full-length rumbler from the band is Tally Ho!, a baker’s dozen throwback blasts of crunchy, catchy garage rock that generally clock in between 120 and 150 seconds. The common thread among them is, of course, pure and beautiful rock ‘n’ roll, all pounding rhythms and chunky guitar riffs and wiry guitar solos and earth-moving low end. It’s a glorious concoction, as you know.
Of course, The Woggles have been around long enough to know when and how to mix it up juuuust enough. Opening track “Luminol Test” and, later, “Pitch a Fit” are straightforward garage-rock rippers, and they are highlights of Tally Ho!
But elsewhere, “Hard Times” is a see-saw rocker with a heavy soul influence and some sweet vintage organ sounds. “Fire Thief” features lots of convincing circa-’64 Beatles pop strut. “What You Think We Are” is darker and dingier, with a little bit of primitive snarl. And “Mothra Hai” sounds like The Who’s bombast colliding with the basic elements of surf-rock.
When The Woggles aren’t busy bouncing across rock ‘n’ roll’s historical boundaries, they aren’t afraid to get a bit campy on songs like “Jungle Queen,” with its caveman drums and tribal calls of “awooga, awooga,” and the title track, which features some theatrical call-and-response vocals. “Learn to Love Again” has the hardest edge in this set, with modern-sounding electric guitar effects and occasional screams. (There are no sustained quiet or slow moments on Tally Ho!, however. After 30 years together, this band is smart enough to know not to let off the gas.)
Tally Ho! is a killer trip down a particular niche, and The Woggles know how to knock around into every corner. It’s like whipping a bouncy ball down a narrow alley just to see where it’ll go.
The Woggles know what they do, and they do it very well. It’s been that way for three decades now. Turns out there’s a fine line between being born too late and being ahead of your time, and these guys walk it expertly.