Release Date: Feb 19, 2016
Record label: Universal
Wolfmother returns with a record that owes as much to 1976 and it does 2016, as much to glam as it does to heavy metal and as much to Andrew Stockdale’s keen songwriting as it does to Brendan O’ Brien’s smart production. This is the kind of kick in the teeth this Australian unit gave us a decade back and it’s high time we had that same kick again. And kick this little sucker does.
Cynics might suggest that Wolfmother, led by the Australian singer and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Stockdale, have made a very nice living indeed over the past decade by copying Black Sabbath’s pre-’75 sound. Mind you, that would be a touch unkind. Sure, Stockdale’s Ozzy impression on Wolfmother’s fourth album is bang-on, especially on the first two tracks, The Love That You Give and Victorious – but dig a bit deeper and you’ll also find the kind of layered “woah-ohh” choruses and mildly rambunctious drums that make, say, Imagine Dragons so palatable to the coffee-table demographic.
Essentially a solo vehicle for Andrew Stockdale, Wolfmother have long been most comfortable when occupying the space between Blue Cheer’s late-60s proto-metal and Black Sabbath at their (relatively) uptempo early-70s peak, with Stockdale’s voice even reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne’s before overindulgence wrecked it. At its best, their fourth album shows that even such unashamedly retro stylings can still sound exciting, as on the pounding The Simple Life, even if the lyrics are at times hilariously anachronistic (“He lives with the peasantry/ She lives with the higher class” – who knew 21st-century Australian society was so feudal?). Stockdale is less successful when he tries to introduce a little variety: the mawkish Pretty Peggy might mark a new nadir in the inglorious history of rock balladry, although Best of a Bad Situation does a good approximation of the tumbling momentum of Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells a Story.
After more lineup changes, Wolfmother emerges with its fourth proper album. Guitarist, frontman, and songwriter Andrew Stockdale remains the only founding member. On Victorious, he plays all guitars and basses, with hired studio drummers Josh Freese and Joey Waronker, and Ian Peres on keyboards. This is a messy collection that attempts to expand on the scope of the swaggering, bluesy hard rock of the band's first two albums.
Raucous water-treading from Australian retro ‘mothers. As one-man bands go, Andrew Stockdale is certainly making a relentless fist of it. His ‘Aussie Zep’ rock band Wolfmother fell to pieces in 2012 only to ‘re-form’ sharpish when Stockdale’s solo career stalled, and he writes and plays almost everything on this fourth album. ADVERTISINGinRead invented by Teads .
Back in the mid-Noughties, you couldn’t escape Wolfmother if you tried. They came roaring out of the gates from what seemed like nowhere and riding high on a wave of classic rock nostalgia, turned into a massive overnight success. They even got a Grammy in the bag. Now back after a revolving door of line-up changes that could rival the Sugababes, a decidedly mixed reception to their last album, 2014’s ‘New Crown’, and an even more more, well, blah reaction to frontman Andrew Stockdale’s solo album –which all taken together, suggests we might be dealing with the Aussie edition of Billy Corgan – if the promotional hype is to be believed, ‘Victorious’ is being pitched as their big, bad comeback.
When Wolfmother released their first EP in fall of 2004, it was a perfect snapshot of an era the Australian trio had missed by a good 30 or so years. Across just four songs, the EP took the sounds of ’70s rock gods like Blue Cheer and Led Zeppelin and made them new again, fresh and raw and irresistible. It was the next logical step from the garage rock revival that had strutted its way to the forefront of popular rock in the early 2000s, kicking out the Silvertone amps and dime store jangling guitars for massive Marshall stacks and searing, fuzz-laden solos, just as their forebears had done decades earlier.
Plenty of bands exhibit a slavish devotion to the style of a bygone era, but the ones worth knowing have always brought something of their own to the mix: wit, personality, shading, glee, anything. On “Victorious,” its fourth album made by its umpteenth lineup, Wolfmother once again lives in thrall of Black Sabbath and the heavy hard-rock boogie of ’70s bands like Foghat, which calls out for either irony or (better yet) chutzpah — qualities the band ignores. It’s foolish to deny, for example, that a roaring thunderer like “The Love That You Give” has the exact primal power it both draws from and shoots for, but it’s too beholden to its forebears to stand on its own.
If last month was teeming with a strong assortment of bouncy electro pop, then this one was chock-full of indie rock releases. Carl wasn't too impressed with most of these month's rock-oriented offerings, including Wolfmother's brazen return, while Juan was somewhat disappointed with those that ….