Wolfmother.

Wolfmother have always been an enigma to me, because I have never really seen them as anything worthwhile listening to - I think they're not a particularly notable band at all. There's none of the 70's sparkle and energy of Blue Cheer (which I personally feel they are closest to) and much of the passion and "energy" modern fans associate with them is not present to me. A perfect example is The Joker And The Thief - where is the passion? It's loud, it's proud, it's angry ... and it's inarticulate and boring. And by passion I reference evident angst and energy; along the vein of MC5 some connect them to or the classics like Zeppelin. The lyrics of their previous works may attempt to be whimsical in a psychedelic style but the music does not support the premise - a poor man's Steppenwolf or Kyuss, with no willingness to push the envelope. I felt precious little passion in the writing of their Self-titled début, that this lack of “care” for the structure of the songs themselves undermined the “energy” of their presentation. . With this context established Cosmic Egg was another album I expected to be a fundamental disappointment – and I was not surprised in any way. It has some definite promise in areas but is again ruined by a lack of willingness on Wolfmother’s part to challenge themselves as artists, and generally disappointing song writing that makes many of these “epic” tunes overstay even the Grecian choir’s welcome.

I read a lot of reviews and opinions on Cosmic Egg, the same returns resonate with me. It is a consistent litany of music critics trying vainly to reach for their musical past and ending up as confused as the band. I see lines like "Wolfmother still parties like it's backstage at a Uriah Heep show", "like one of those crazy Black Sabbath stories" and "powerful and poignant rock n' roll record with all the ingredients of a modern classic" and I fume inside. This has to stop. This has to stop now. It is not good, it is not standout, it is not exceptional when a band is merely like someone else. If you want to make Rock and Roll - (and I would dispute that they actually do), it is not sufficient to be like. That's not conviction or passion - that's confusion. If someone becomes typecast by how they compare to other bands rather than having metaphors applied to them. It may be something of a trope-ridden line; but Wolfmother need to push themselves into a new direction and extend on what they are throwing homage to. I'm not expecting them to invent a new direction, they just need to actually step out of the comfort zone and write something non-derivative, to take risks. When you make a great album, you make it one of two ways. The first is you make it original and new and fresh - and that means people describe it in metaphor. This is not metaphor, and the album remains about as far away from a Modern Rock Classic as Australian music can conceivably arrive..

And that leaves only one other way for this to be brilliant - the "Persuader" Direction, to make a truly amazing album that embraces it’s own influences entirely instead of ending up stranded between the middle ground. Wolfmother however fail even at this. The music is unfocused, the solos don't feel like they have any power - and bereft of context, Andrew Stockdale's voice is just annoying New Moon Rising's hooks don't sound infectious at all, Sundial has none of the atmosphere that makes those "Crazy Black Sabbath Stories" so powerful (nor does it have iommi's sheer power). Pilgrim's and Sundial feature none of the "unforgettable" riffs I was told to expect - rather they feel pretty underwhelming given the standard set. When I hear "unforgettable" I think something powerful, convincingly - possessing an almost unnatural energy akin to Sabbath's Symptom of the Universe, not overlong pieces of 1970 worship. In one of the truly quite transcendent victories on the album - In the Morning, songwriting undermines concept. It remains huge, aggressive, wielding a monster tune and hitting the right spots - until the band refuses to end the bloody song. Queue a good concept ruined by overstaying the welcome and you have another audible sigh echoing from this critic's consciousness . The bass is not killer - it's about as effective as an Irish injury, it works against the music. Unlike bands that try and really wholeheartedly embrace their influences and rework that into something new, sharp, cutting and passionate - they stumble around.

If you want to re imagine a 70's style that was so iconic, important and varied (especially psychedelic) you have to have a clarity of purpose - because you must stand out from the contemporaries and those that came before you. A good example is the Gaslight Anthem - They are simple, They are (not just sound) sincere, and they kill you every time. Wolfmother are never this consistently enough. They do have some pretty damn good moments - all of the things above that I criticised are actually quite solid, they just needed to be taken further. A definite gap exists between what they seem to be capable of at their peaks and what is presented in LP form. As mentioned previously with the example of In the Morning - most of their music feels over-long and yet too short. Personally, I’m operating under the feeling they try to accomplish too much in a four minute song (hello Sundial, I’m looking at your attempt at an epic-yet-concise “story”) and that makes the whole experience end so soon - yet sound so dense. Amidst this bipolar dichotomy of a song attempting to accomplish too much in space too little, I’m struck with the feeling the subtlety that could give Cosmic Egg real power is completely eclipsed. Violence of the Sun is actually excellent and a real savior for the labum- but they just consistently fail to push the envelope. They get a 7/10 and have never improved that score - if anything losing Chris Ross brings them down a .5.

They're a bunch of confused Australians honestly misguided enough to say they quit because of "irreconcilable personal and musical differences". Nobody should ever claim such legalese when they clearly sound like they don't even know what they want to be playing, let alone what they disagree on. For the love of god, people are calling Cosmic Egg VINTAGE Wolfmother. Vintage. VINTAGE. What the hell? As if their records mean something already in the grand scale of contemporary music. How long is it going to take before someone else other than me stands the bloody hell up and shouts it to the crowd that the emperor has no clothes? We obsess over Wolfmother, Ben Lee, we ignore Architecture In Helsinki, Machine Translations, Virgin Black and drove Destroyer 666 away? Now with the Return of Wolfmother we are prepared to let them get away with this twice.

Goddamnit. Australia.

Goddamnit.

___________________________

PS:. To those who still enjoy a very opinionated and passionate 1970's era punk styling, actually grab yourself both albums by the American Quartet The Gaslight Anthem, those being Sink or Swim and The 59 Sound. I doubt you will regret it. They even managed to make PitchforkMedia's reviewers sound like human beings again. Truly something special.

Next up who knows? Maybe Nickelback (Grizzlies).

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I listened several times to their debut, Wolfmother, when it was just released in 2006. The only knowledge I had at hand at the time, was that "They are nostalgics reviving 'classic' rock in a modern jacket", based in Australia..

Getting decent reviews all over by even the actual nostalgics spread over US websites and renowned European review magazines, I was convinced enough to give it a try and hoped to have stumbled on something similar as Tool's Lateralus and Aenima in terms of national contribution to popular Rock.

At this point, with my last listen most likely dating back from early 2008, I can safely say that it has never really grown on me. As you say, surely it's loud, it's rough, but it never really hits the refinedness of the better work of the era they tried to honour. It's even rather bland and sluggish, which I found rather peculiar when you are inspiring yourself as a band by an era which doesnt necessarily exclude itself from any possibility and technique to innovate and blend in with other (more refined) genres which were around at the time.

At this point I never listened any of their new releases. Not because of issues of frustration which you seem to be dealing with, but generally the lack of impression I had when I gave a listen to Wolfmother. And that might be bad for a band who is trying to do memorable things, while shamelessly claiming their inspiration is based on 'memorable' times.

But hey, don't be too mad on Australia. You guys still have Wifi and Russel Crowe.
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