Hungry like Wolfmother
AUDIOSYNCRASY - Igan D’Bayan () - October 27, 2006 - 12:00am
This band will blow your house down.

Yes, I know I am several months late in writing about Wolfmother. Very few albums come my way these days that make me quit what I am doing (picking my nose, making disturbing drawings, waiting for signs of the apocalypse) and then listen without prejudice. The brilliant Arctic Monkeys debut was one of them. The same with the latest discs from Morrissey, Audioslave, Thom Yorke and Mars Volta. But Wolfmother’s self-titled album was like the aural equivalent of the Big Bad Wolf huffing, puffing and demanding to be heard – from the opening scream of Dimension to the dying bars of Vagabond.

Wolfmother to the uninitiated is an Australian acid-rock band from Erskineville, Sydney, which consists of singer-guitarist Andrew Stockdale, bassist-keyboardist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett. It’s not hard to believe that Wolfmother was inspired by a Black Sabbath tribute band (old geezers trying to play old songs by Geezer Butler). Wolfmother is a Black Sabbath tribute band. Not in the pejorative sense, though.

The guys from the Australian band take the best elements of old Sabbath (the doomsday riffs, the thunderous drums, the references to witchcraft and pyramids) and combine them with soundscapes from bands we old audiophiles love: AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and – believe it or not – the White Stripes. Q magazine reported that when the White Stripes and Wolfmother played in Australia, Jack White loved Wolfmother so much that he took them bowling. (The sight of those rockers scoring spares and strikes must have freaked out the bowling alley regulars – like a quirky outtake from The Big Lebowski.)

It is also reported that Led Zeppelin will be inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame, with Wolfmother playing a Led Zep track. (Immigrant Song, I hope.)

One thing I like about the "Wolfmother" album is that you can listen to it like an old dusty record that you love. (Remember when you first heard "Master of Reality" or "Vol. 4" in all their vinyl glory? Those days when Ozzy screamed iniquities and assorted evil, and not just "Sharrroooon!") The guy from Kasabian was lamenting the death of the album in the iPod generation: people are just downloading the hit songs, hitting the shuffle button, and blatantly disregarding the mother album or the original track-listing of the CD as they hit the treadmill. Stairway to Heaven follows The Battle of Evermore, and Money follows The Great Gig in the Sky, etc. – chuck all that. What Kasabian, Mars Volta and Wolfmother are doing is bringing back the majesty of the complete "album."

And what Wolfmother has done is to provide an alternative to the guys in tailored suits that rip off three-minute Gang of Four songs. (It has gotten to the point that Gang of Four cannot do Gang of Four anymore.) The Aussie band has created big, brawny songs that make you think the sky is falling – and you’re freaking Chicken Little. Not only that, the guys from Wolfmother love to jam – another lost art in the musical landscape of the ’00s. Sure, sure. Nothing astoundingly original about "Wolfmother," which comes across like a musical mélange of Black Sabbath and White Stripes tunes. But what is original these days, anyway? Antony and the Johnsons?

Here is a track-by-track review of "Wolfmother."

Dimension
is characterized by a scream, thumping drums, and guitars reminiscent of Tony Iommi, as Stockdale leads listeners "into another dimension."

The second track is evidence that Wolfmother was also influenced by prog-rock philosophers: White Unicorn. Who dares sing about unicorns and serpents vine, except the Moody Blues or Procol Harum in the ’70s?

Woman
, the first Wolfmother song I ever heard (it was a download, ironically), brings to the fore the White Stripes influence – with its garage rock riff bolstered by the drums. Although the keyboard flourishes (and the bass line) put to rest the unfair comparison.

The verses of Where Eagles Have Been are evocative, especially the line "Nothin’s quite what it seems in the city of dreams." Then comes the Led Zeppelin-like guitar solo (shades of Dazed and Confused) and all hell breaks lose. The perfect song when storming the gates of Valhalla.

Apple Tree
is another garage rock excursion. Stockdale sings the line "Dear Sir, can you remember me/I’m the one that picked the apple tree," like a hungrier Jack White (without the cache of supermodels, controversies and Hollywood cameos). Not disappointingly, Joker & The Thief is not a cover of All Along The Watchtower. It is more of a Rush tune (with its elliptical guitar recalling Alex Lifeson) than a Bob Dylan homage.

Colossal
, which arrives with a slow mammoth riff reminiscent of Soundgarden and Sabbath, is about a "colossal girl" who "talks to trees." Mind’s Eye is another evocative number, which has a keyboard break that will remind listeners of Jethro Tull. Pyramid is heralded by a piercing guitar note before Stockdale sings about "hidden meanings" and the "ancients calling."

Witchcraft
has that shuffle-like riff that evokes Deep Purple’s Black Night. And then comes, shockingly, The Flute Solo. For a moment there, I thought I was listening to "Thick As A Brick." It’s like riding a musical time machine (not the ridiculous one purchased via the Net in Napoleon Dynamite, though).

Tales
is the most modern-sounding track on "Wolfmother." Like a Vines song with more atmospheric guitars. Love Trains heads toward evil funk territory, and gets derailed along the way. Vagabond closes the album like an epilogue to an acid drizzle.

What a trip this album is – from the desert to the City of Dreams to the mansion on top of the hill. We should thank the Aussie trio for hallucinogenic guitar solos, swelling retro organs, and lyrics about unicorns and sorcerers.

So, who’s afraid of Big Bad Wolfmother?
* * *
For comments, suggestions, curses and invocations, e-mail iganja_ys@yahoo.com.

ALBUM ALEX LIFESON BLACK SABBATH DEEP PURPLE GANG OF FOUR JACK WHITE LED ZEPPELIN STOCKDALE WHITE STRIPES WOLFMOTHER
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