Stoner rock for generation X
Call it timing, or just plain old fashioned good luck, but Wolfmother’s 2006 debut came out when the whole garage-prog-rock movement was on the ascent, especially amongst those who were born in a post Sabbath/Zeppelin world. Lead singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale is clearly a child of the ‘70s, no doubt force-fed on a diet of Yes, Deep Purple, and the aforementioned Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Nothing wrong with that. Musicians have been borrowing and stealing from the past for decades, often passing off other people’s ideas as their own in the process.
Wolfmother have no such illusions of grandeur it seems. From the Frank Frazetta album cover to the retro sounds within, Wolfmother wear their influences openly, and appear unafraid to pretend to be anything but innovative. Even the song titles themselves are a dead giveaway: “White Unicorn,” “Tales from the Forest of Gnomes,” and “Witchcraft,” all betray Stockdale’s allegiance to his parents’ vinyl collection.
First track “Colossal,” is a case in point – all thunderous power chords and hazy vocals a la Jack White. “Woman” is about as generic as they come, with lyrics that hardly smack of TS Eliot: “She’s a woman/You know what I mean/You better listen/Listen to me/She’s gonna set you free.” They stretch out a bit during “White Unicorn,” with more of those inane verses one by this point has come to expect: “Have you been to the carnival/I would like to see you/There’s a whole lot of people there/Who would like to be you.” Obviously Marc Bolin Stockdale ain’t.
“Pyramid,” with its distorted guitar and rumbling riffs has epic written all over it, except for one thing, this is no heroic marathon in the vein of “Chase The Rainbow,” rather a grungy fuzz-fest stock-built for stadiums. On “Mind’s Eye,” Stockdale wails like a young Robert Plant (psychedelic gibberish and all) in search of Rick Wakeman, before resurrecting The White Stripes during a turgid “Joker & the Thief,” and likewise on the thrashy “Apple Tree.”
“Dimension” could be The Who, albeit minus the ambition and intellect. “Where Eagles Have Been” starts off with some gentle lilting guitar before taking off into the stadium-rock hemisphere, thanks to Stockdale’s bigger-than-Ben Hur and no doubt carefully calculated muscle chords (think “Can’t Find My Way Home” only with less subtlety). Imagine if Jimmy Page and Marc Bolin had of decided to team up and record a song together? Well that’s pretty much what you get on “Tales from the Forest of Gnomes” (including a little Soundgarden thrown in for good measure).
They add a spoonful of Jethro Tull (“Witchcraft”), before closing the album on a proggy, country-rock note (“Vagabond”), a song which pretty much sums up what’s best, and worst about Wolfmother (aka Stockdale). But for anyone under the age of 25, and who wasn’t raised by hippie parents (or at least parents old enough to remember Woodstock), then Wolfmother is probably the right sort of antidote for those who probably regard Leaf Hound as a type of dog breed.
If anything, Wolfmother makes for a fun and enjoyable listen, despite its slavishly retro overtones. As long as one doesn’t play it too often, then this album should provide much joy and pleasure to the listener for many years to come.
Now, can I please put on Houses of the Holy?