Review Summary: Stockdale Inc. returns on form but somehow manages to hide their best songs on the Deluxe Edition...
Wolfmother, or Andrew Stockdale and his ever-changing troupe of chums, are a marmite band - you'll either love them or you'll hate them. With their debut LP in 2005, they recieved praise for "epic songs and memorable riffs" but also critisism for a "lack of originality" in their similar sound to 70s hard rock, namely Led Zeppelin
and Black Sabbath
Four years later with the release of their sophomore album, and the replacement of 2/3 members and the addition of a 4th in the form of a rhythm guitarist, it is evident Stockdale is the key driving force behind the band as they have retained their rough, heavy sound.
There is some evolution however, most obvious in impressive tracks Far Away
, Eyes Open
and Violence of the Sun
which incorporate pianos and acoustic guitars and especially in the latter, hints of prog. The album has also been engineered to have a cleaner, more layered feel than before, which works wonders in Cosmonaut - an underplaying acoustic guitar and actually meaningful lyrics in the bridge:
We travel far off into space,
No longer part of any race,
All worldly pleasures left behind,
No longer part of our own kind
This creates a sort of mystical mood and expresses an overwhelming desire to escape Earth and all its faults, which along with an exceptional solo results in one of the album's most memorable songs, though it was not included in the standard edition.
This brings me onto the subject of the four bonus tracks the deluxe version brings (Cosmonaut
, Eyes Open
and Back Round
). In my opinion, the first three are some of the best tracks Wolfmother have written.
is also possibly their heaviest and most downbeat. It truly lives up to the 'epic' image the album title and artwork created by its powerful piano-led middle section that ends with Stockdale screaming as if his testicles are trapped in a metal clamp. It's a nice break from their usual hook-based style.
is one of my favourites. Despite being driven by essentially the same four chord loop, the song finds strength in its simplicity, the opposite of the complex Eyes Open. A nice, wandering little solo and Andrew's lyrics about a difficult, lost loved-one build on this and wrap the track up neatly.
On the other hand, while it is not bad, Back Round
lacks identity and defining features to make it more than 'just another song', which is the problem with some of the album's other tracks which bring its quality down: California Queen
, In the Castle
. They feel too formulaic, like Stockdale just decided to write a catchy riff, then a solo and then some lyrics to go over the top. This is clear in California Queen
's infamous lyrics of "Fully air conditioned man machine/With a homemade hydroponic, wait to find out what it means." What meaning can that possibly
There is also the case of White Feather
, the riff a blatant AC/DC
rip off, and the chorus that has the same lyrics as All Right Now
! Other than the solo, the song is quite frankly terrible and the decision to release it as a single seems bizarre.
However, when this album shines, it really
shines. The epic ballad In the Morning
is beautiful, from the imagery its lyrics create, to its thunderous drum rolls (Dave Atkins is a worthy successor to Myles Heskett, also evident on the catchy lead single New Moon Rising
, 10,000 Feet
and Cosmic Egg
(which sadly has nothing to do with the album title) are Wolfmother in their good old familiar territory, succeeding in managing not to feel too derivative and presenting us with more dazzling riffs.
This is a step in the right direction for Wolfmother, and if Andrew Stockdale keeps up his poetry classes and perhaps listens to some (shock horror) new
music the band may finally achieve a truly stand out album and finally gain their own identity.
- In the Morning
- Far Away
- Cosmic Egg