Modular Recordings, 2005
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/10/2006
Before delving headfirst into Wolfmother's eponymous debut, I was lucky enough to receive this 2005 EP as a four-track sampler. Good thing, because now I won't be buying the debut like I'd planned.
Rock in this century has reached a point where there aren't many ideas left to explore; critics are comparing new bands to earlier bands because a fresh sound is difficult to come by. Still, it's somewhat disheartening to see new bands just rehashing old ideas; when Zeppelin aped Robert Johnson, it sounded good, but ultimately the band's original ideas were more rewarding and have lasted longer in their legend.
Zeppelin actually is an influence on this band, as is Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep, infused with a slight Dashboard Confessional sensibility and a progressive feel reminiscent of Rush. It sounds interesting, but it's nothing Dream Theater hasn't already done, and Wolfmother's power trio approach adds nothing new to the prog-rock canon. They can rock, no question, but it all feels like deja vu.
Reportedly, the debut sounds a lot like this EP, but oddly enough, the two best songs here do not appear on the release while the other two do. "Mind's Eye" is an update on Soundgarden, a sort of arena-rock tune filtered through the sludge and some interesting if derivative keyboard riffs. Andrew Stockdale's lyrics aren't anything new -- "Well they say it's right if it feels alright / When your love burns up in the mire / So I burnt a fire for a lost desire / See it burning higher" -- paging Jim Morrison? -- but his delivery has that sort of alternative-rock passion delivery that made stars of Chris Cornell and Scott Weiland. Rampant stealing has never sounded so cool.
Unfortunately, if the band has an original idea, it's hard to spot. I could see where they were headed with "Love Train," but I also could spot the influences -- and it's truly surreal to hear a band aping Lenny Kravitz, when Kravitz apes classic rock himself. But Kravitz approaches funk, and three white guys from Australia can't quite pull it off here. Still, it's fun.
Wolfmother does want to be progressive, so they include something called "The Earth's Rotation Around the Sun," which whispers the title several times over a drum beat before segueing into a slightly psychedelic groove and, finally, a Deep Purple-like guitar break. Then, just like that, the track stops and there's 30 seconds of whooshing noises - and this three minute piece ends the album. I know EPs are supposed to be experimental or underdeveloped, but this pushes the term.
There's also "Dimension," but if you've heard the White Stripes or Black Sabbath, you've already heard this song.
Yet, it's tough to criticize this disc because the classic rock sound is so cool, and updating it with modern production and an eager outlook is a lot of fun. But when it's over, I didn't feel any warmth, only a desire to break out the originals. Wolfmother may have a career as a cover band ahead if they don't come up with some original ideas soon, because they can only ride this train for so long, even if the train ride is fun while it lasts.