Universal, 2016

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


On the fourth album with the Wolfmother name, the original band as we knew and loved them in 2005 is gone. Only Andrew Stockdale remains, along with a number of hired studio hands on bass and guitar. Because that makes this essentially a solo project, Stockdale is free to do as he wishes, since he plays guitar, sings, and writes each track.

The good news is that this still sounds like Wolfmother, a retro classic rock band that proudly wears its FM radio influences on its sleeve to the point that you can easily imagine certain sections or entire songs slotting in to other band’s albums. There’s a difference between inspiration and imitation. But Stockdale isn’t great at knowing that, so you’ll easily note the chugging riff and Ozzy-inspired vocals of “The Love That You Give” as the lost mid-period Black Sabbath track, the ‘80s hair metal references, and a strong Deep Purple vibe on the title track.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Now, plenty of bands are able to make songs like this work, and certainly this is a fun 35-minute hard rock record that doesn’t have time for shoegazing; music like this used to be the norm in mainstream rock, so you could throw this on in your garage when you’re working on the car without issue. Problem is, Stockdale is trying very hard here to create anthems, or mini-epics, and so he and producer Brendan O’Brien slather each song with multiple overdubs and layers of echo and vocals, in many cases obscuring whatever the original riff was.

Part of this, I suppose, is Stockdale’s desire to stay current while still hanging on to the classic rock casettes he loves so much. You cannot listen to “Pretty Peggy” and not think of the Lumineers. Nor can you listen to “Baroness” and not think of Muse or Imagine Dragons or Arcade Fire’s Reflektor, all of whose overblown-yet-appealing sonic grandiosity Wolfmother seems destined to emulate now. This is different from 2005, when they were trying to emulate the White Stripes and Zeppelin, and it’s not an improvement.

As for memorable songs, all the dressing up won’t save a song that was mediocre to begin with. But things do get better on the second half with “City Lights,” the pop-punk-inspired “The Simple Life,” the solid “Gypsy Caravan,” and the fuzzed-out, very heavy “Happy Face,” which rides a simple but insistent riff and adds some spacy keyboards.

You can hear what you want in Wolfmother’s music, I suppose, though with all the overdubs and post-production it’s hard to really pin down what this band is all about. There are moments that harken back to the debut (remember “Woman,” their first and best song?), but there are many more moments of trying too hard. Approach with caution.

Rating: C-

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