Review Summary: A strong, confident alt-pop debut, which easily overcomes minor flaws. Well worth the free download.
The Internet, and the almost limitless possibilities it added to traditional information sharing processes, was possibly the best thing to happen to the underground music scene since the tape-trading movement died out almost two decades ago. While larger bands were busy disputing the legality of file sharing and mp3's, smaller bands got busy trying to make themselves visible by any means necessary; and when their first platform of choice, Myspace, died the obsolescence death, they found another conveniently ready to take its place, and offering even more options through which to share their music. Thus began the Bandcamp revolution, and the second online boom for underground and independent music.
The effects of this new wave of easy, legal file sharing make themselves most apparent upon contact with bands like Werefox, a female-fronted four-piece from unlikely Slovenia which, one suspects, would not have existed in a world without the Internet. Before the World Wide Web, the group's location - outside of what are normally considered the main musical 'hotbeds' - would have severely limited their expansion possibilities, most likely relegating them to cult status within their own country and total oblivion everywhere else. With Bandcamp, the band can at least have a fair stab at putting their music out there, at no additional cost to the listener; and while said listener may not be willing to shell out the €9.99 required to acquire the physical copy of the group's first album, I Am Memory
, they will most likely not balk at what they find upon completing their free and legal download.
Formed by "experienced musicians from the Slovene music scene", Werefox do indeed prove themselves relatively adept at mixing several elements into a cohesive, alternative pop-rock whole. The group describes their sound as "dark and seductive, noisy, yet full of melody", and such a description cannot be considered anything less than accurate. Loud, crunchy guitars pop up here and there throughout I Am Memory
's eleven songs, but they share record space with atmospheric passages, reggae beats, hints of electronica and ethereal, yet powerful female vocals. The final result is a pleasantly varied hodgepodge of hard-to-point-out influences, effortlessly shifting as it does from Guano Apes intensity to hints of Fleetwood Mac, jingle-jangly Cardigans chimes and Sixpence None The Richer vocal inflections, and back again. In what concerns originality, Werefox definitely score a few brownie points.
However - and fortunately - uniqueness is not I Am Memory
's only attribute. Throughout the course of these 50 or so minutes, the group manages to whip up some appealing ideas, warranting at least a couple of repeat listens to their material. Songs such as Doghouse, Fun On The Moon
or closer Urgency
all feature more or less catchy sections for the listener to look forward to and be captivated by with every repeat press of the 'Play' button. Musicianship is also tight throughout (as would be expected from experienced musicians), and nowhere in the album does anything particularly offensive ever occur.
With that said, the record does suffer from a few problems which, while not fatal, nonetheless contribute towards lessening its initial impact. Most notable among them is the fact that, while allegedly comprised of veterans, the group has not quite managed to polish their songwriting to its ideal point just yet. As a result, most of the songs on I Am Memory
go on slightly longer than they should, thereby lessening their overall efficacity and wandering into unremarkable filler territory. The most glaring example of this is perhaps Urgency
, which displays anything but, sauntering along with a leisurely reggae beat and ultimately clocking in at a somewhat self-indulgent nine minutes - which would not be a problem, if not for the fact that the track completely loses itself halfway through, effectively nullifying its beautifully haunting initial section into a vague sense of boredom. While the attempt at adding a somewhat more progressive, 'post' aspect to their sound is commendable, the proof is in the pudding: Werefox are at their best when they keep to a more streamlined, five-minute pop song format, such as on the album's standouts.
As noted above, however, none of I Am Memory
's flaws is anything that cannot easily be fixed with a couple of simple tweaks on the band's next album. Weaknesses or no weaknesses, Werefox's debut is still a strong and confident one, displaying more than enough originality and quality to warrant a free download and, perhaps, an attentive eye cast towards the band's future. It could have even done without the expendable, pointless 'celebrity collaboration' (with Girls Against Boys's Scott McCloud), which will no doubt warrant a sticker on the cover of the physical edition, but adds nothing substantial to the output of a band with enough legs to stand on its own.
Download it legally and for free here
Fun On The Moon