Well, this one came as a bit of a shock. After several lineup changes, the temporary hijacking of the band’s material by increasingly egotistical frontman Andrew Stockdale and a break-up which lasted about a month, Wolfmother have pulled a Beyonce. No they haven’t been captured un-photogenically at a Superbowl half-time show, they’ve dropped a surprise new album.
When the Aussie lads burst onto the scene with their debut album a decade ago, they were a breath of fresh(ish) air blasting straight out of 1969 and into the charts and festival circuits. A lot has happened since then, critical and commercial failures, acrimonious lineup changes and Andrew Stockdale enjoying the view from up his own arse… so, are they still the kings of retro-rock?
I love the “no hype” approach here. Just drop the album with no fanfare at all and it will take care of itself right? No need for Daft Punk-esque media saturation, get it done, get it out and we’re off to a good start.
And a good start is as good as it gets I’m afraid. This is rock & roll as base and generic as you’re likely to hear. The riffs and arrangements are so predictable and clichéd that even the most workmanlike of bedroom guitarists could jam along like a pro on the first listen.
Despite the band claiming not to emulate the likes of ‘Sabbath & ‘Zeppelin, half the riffs on ‘New Crown’ have been ripped wholesale from ‘Master of Reality’ and had Stockdale’s irritatingly unfocused vocal wail pasted on top. They don’t stop at aping the Sabs either.
Stoner kings Kyuss are ripped off mercilessly… add the Hammond organ and you’ve got fellow Aussies Legends of Motorsport…. and Stockdale’s violent over-use of his octave pedal would make Jack White blush.
In addition to the hackneyed and unimaginative songs, the playing is pure slop. Tight they ain’t. The drumming is all over the place (especially in the final track “I Don’t Know Why”) and the riffs & solos are so amateurish as to sound like there’s superglue on the bloody strings. We’re not talking on-the -fly improvisations or back to basics stuff here… this is the work of a third rate garage band.
Augmenting the inept and feeble compositions is the wildly differing production between tracks. Some sound like they were recorded in a boomy tin shed while others have studio sheen and a crisp high end, which would make any album a frustratingly inconsistent listen, let alone one without a hint of any redeeming features.
A few of the tracks are downright laughable. “Enemy is your Mind” is an unashamed Sabbath rip and features guitar work that sounds akin to a drunken cross-eyed Jack White if he’d had half his cerebral cortex removed.
“Feelings” is a disastrous attempt by the band to go “punk”. I can’t convey how bad this song is… really. Next.
“I Don’t Know Why”… Take Tame Impala’s guitar sound and add a drummer who’s just swallowed a handful of valium washed down with a dozen bourbon & cokes and you’re somewhere around the mark. Bizarrely I think this mess was executed this way deliberately. “I Don’t Know Why”? I fucking don’t either.
And of course there are the “psychedelic explorations” of the title track. Unsurprisingly our intrepid explorers’ adventure doesn’t really reach any Odyssean heights. They set out on the wrong foot by stumbling over a mess of fuzzed out octave pedals, then lazily set up base camp at a rudimentary chromatic riff before calling the whole thing off and fucking off back home for milk & cookies. Epic it ain’t.
The worst thing about this album is the horribly egregious derivation. The looseness and bad production I can forgive… the borderline plagiarism I can’t. Looming large over the whole thing are the specters of Messrs Osbourne, Iommi, Butler and Ward… just for starters.
I hate to kick the shit out an easy target, really I do, but this album is terrible. If you want good quality Aussie hard rock which harkens to the heady days of the late ‘60s, there are four girls called Stonefield.
‘New Crown’ gets a couple of points for “My Tangerine Dream” and “Radio” which are reasonable tracks… unfortunately they just don’t have any company.