Friday, March 28, 2014

Wolfmother Earns Its Big New Crown

In what some are calling the biggest surprise LP of the year, New Crown is a reasonably riveting and undeniably raw psychedelic rock album punctuated with enough punk to to rattle your teeth and heaviness shake your bones. The album is just enough to give Wolfmother some badly needed new life.

Whatever anxiety and trepidation Andrew Stockdale felt about carrying on the Wolfmother banner after the departure of Chris Ross and Myles Heskett seems to be gone. New Crown seems to suggest that he has finally found his groove with long-time bassist Ian Peres and drummer Vin Steele.

The new lineup has been crowned. Long live Wolfmother. 

Given it has been five years since the release of Cosmic Egg, with barely enough bits and twists to keep the dusty genre alive, it was anybody's guess whether Stockdale could shift his creative energy enough to tap the talents of his new bandmates. New Crown puts all that to rest.

Sure, there will be plenty of remarks from critics who will continue to call the work a rehash of the sixties and seventies, but the sound isn't as irrelevant as some would have you believe. While it might be true that Wolfmother never seems able to give its music the muscle it truly deserves, the band still manages to move things forward as a relaxed throwback.

Fans will likely find the album is a better pairing with the debut than the experimental commotion of Cosmic Egg. Some will even hint at grunge and blues rock influences, but that doesn't really capture what is going on here.

Breaking out with How Many Times, Wolfmother snarls and bangs its way through the first track. Never mind that the opening riff doesn't feel right or that Stockdale doesn't always sound like he is keeping up with his bandmates. The charm of the noise they make is the first-time feel that it has throughout.

Wolfmother follows it up with Enemy Is In Your Mind, which is about as close as they get to their debut sound. Like much of the album, the lo-fi feel and muddy distortion are cranked up as much as possible, intentionally giving the track the lowest production value possible.

Aside from the several blatant missteps as the band apparently grows too tired to finish out the four-minute track, Enemy Is In Your Mind does introduce Heavy Weight, which is a big, nonsensical, and mind-numbing slow motion stadium shaker.

Better tracks to dial up first include New Crown, which gives away the band's best Hendrix vibe, and My Tangerine Dream, which doubles down on the summer of love. Other tracks like meandering and confused Tall Ships or the travesty that is Feelings are better left off your sampling list.

I Ain't Got No isn't much better with its ridiculous lyrics and busted mix, but is marginally more listenable only because it becomes amusing as an accidental lampoon of the genre. The song puts Stockdale in the lobby of a hotel without a reservation. He tells the hotel staff what's up or something.

Not for anything, this is exactly why Wolfmother is still around . Even when their tracks fall short, like She Got It, they somehow schlock it up so much that every cringe or silly lyric makes sense. The trade off, of course, is that it is sometimes hit and miss. Radio saves itself but I Don't Know Why is absolutely awful.

New Crown By Wolfmother Crashes 2.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

If you are still reading this review and wondering why New Crown even made the review cut, there is only one way to sum it up. The band doesn't take itself too seriously these days. They play on stage just like they play off stage — somewhat sloppily while they have a good time.

If you listen to tracks like New Crown, My Tangerine Dream, Heavy Weight, Enemy Is In Your Mind, and even the grammatically challenged I Ain't Got No, you might have a good time too. New Crown can be found on iTunes where it received 4.5 stars from fans. The album isn't listed on Amazon, but you can find Wolfmother's debut there. Meanwhile, the band has booked a smattering of shows in Australia, Mexico, Russia, and the United States.
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