Welcome back to the second episode of “The Debut”. For this round, we talk about another retro rock band out of Australia called Wolfmother. The name alone would have made me listen to this album, but it is certainly the music that has kept me coming back again and again.
Like Jet, Wolfmother is not the most original band out there. The band has been accused of ripping off some of the great metal bands of the 60’s & 70’s, most especially Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and even a little Jimi Hendrix. If you were into those bands, than this album is something for you. If you need a comparison to some more recent bands, I can hear a little White Stripes as well, but mostly for me it is Sabbath with Plant vocal stylings.
They also stick to themes you would have expected from that era as well. You get mystical unicorns, vagabonds, pyramids, witches and so much more. To hear this heavy, distorted and screaming guitars and listen to the Zeppelinesque song stylings at the time were like nothing else on the radio. It took me back to a good place and I have never stopped loving this album. I enjoy it just as much today as a did upon its release in the States back in 2006.
The album cover is something else as well. The cover is the painting called “The Sea Witch” by fantasy and science fiction artist Frank Frazetta. The painting was done way back in 1967. It was a controversial album cover for its nudity. Walmart had them change the cover so they could sell it in their stores. That cover was simply the white logo against a black background…BORING!!
Lets talk a little about the band. It is hard to think that all this sonic bliss came from a 3-piece band, but it did. The band consists of the following members:
- Andrew Stockdale – lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitar
- Chris Ross – bass guitar, keyboard
- Myles Heskett – drums
Sadly, Andrew is the only member left, but he is the voice so I am good with that. However, he did lose some good songwriting partners when the other members left in 2008 due to creative differences and personal issues as well. The band has never been able to capture the magic of this debut since although their latest, ‘Victorious’ does a good job.
- “White Unicorn”
- “Where Eagles Have Been”
- “Apple Tree”
- “Joker & the Thief”
- “Mind’s Eye”
- “Love Train”
When the opening track kicks off, you are greeted with a scream of “Wow” from Andrew Stockdale on the song “Dimension” and then you are taken to that other dimension. This is one of those opening tracks that start the album off so strong and pulls you in that you know you are about to be taken on an incredible musical journey. For the Australian release, this was actually the 7th track and wouldn’t have the impact as it does as the opening track. There are so many Jimi Hendrix references throughout the song including the most obvious “Purple Hazes in the sky”. See if you can find the other ones.
“White Unicorn” is up next and starts off a little slower and slowly builds back up to another rocking track. This band was born in the wrong time period with this sound. This is one of the songs that the critics definitely referenced the Zeppelin influences and Brian Hiatt from Rolling Stones called it…
a “Viking-horned anthem” containing “some of the tastiest fuzz-guitar tones recorded in years, and Jimmy Page-worthy chordal riffing”
Rolling Stone also stated that Andrew wrote the song when he was influenced by a model he saw on TV wearing a white unicorn which isn’t very inspiring to me, but apparently it was to him.
One of my favorite songs on the album is the next track, “Woman”. The song was a hit in the U.S. reaching #7 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks and #10 on the Modern Rock Tracks. The song is about a woman who understands who he is and what he is about. The woman’s name, if you didn’t know, is Sydney…as in Sydney, Australia. The woman is actually a city. The song is the shortest on the album at under 3:00, but it packs quite a wallop in that time. For me, it is one of the straight up rockers on the whole album.
“Where Eagles Have Been” is one of the mystical feeling songs. It is at a much slower tempo and really never grabs my attention. It was one of the two songs on the album, I couldn’t remember when I revisited it for this post and that tells me all I need to know. However, there is a killer guitar solo in it that I missed that does makeup for the rest of the song.
Next up is the song “Apple Tree” which opens with more of a punk vibe before getting back to the early 70’s style rock. It is a nice change. Lenny Castro is a guest musician on the song adding more percussions and you can hear it in the song. The bass on the song is freakin’ killer as well. All around great rock song.
Another of my favorite songs is “Joker & The Thief”, screw it, this is my favorite song!! The opening guitar riff is incredible and the overall anthemic feel is second to none on this album. Andrew Stockdale has completely admitted that he stole this song from Bob Dylan’s song “All Along the Watchtower”. Both the joker and the thief are references in that song. The thief in this version, however, is a girl. You have to listen to this song…
Side Two kicks off the “Colossal” which is actually the opening track for the Australian release. The song opens with darker tones and a more eerie sound. The guitars are fuzzy just like in White Unicorn. Since I like a darker feel to songs, this one is right up my alley. I can see why this was the original opening track.
The first single released by the band was “Mind’s Eye” and it started all the retro rock comparisons that continue today. The song opens so quietly and never goes full on rock, until it gets to that fabulous keyboard solo in the middle. The song sounds so cool and is so serious as this band is fully committed to what they are doing.
“Pyramid” comes at you with very distorted guitars and a driving drum beat. It throws in some quite unusual guitar/keyboard sounds that make this song a little different than the rest until it goes full on beast mode. Overall fun song for me.
Now on to “Witchcraft”. The song brings us the most metal instrument you have ever heard in your life. Only one other band has ever successfully turned this instrument into a metal instrument and that band was Jethro Tull. You guessed it…The FLUTE!! Guest musician Dan Higgins plays one mean ass flute. Joking aside, this song is the best song on the side two and one of the best of the album. A solid rock song and some damn fine flute playing.
“Tales” is the eleventh song on the album and is actually called “Tales from the Forest of Gnomes” on the Australian release (I like that title better). I really like the slow opening and the guitar as it kicks into the bridge & chorus. It is a different sound and the vocals are changed up a little as well. It is one of the more unique songs on the album. It is the closest you will get to a power ballad without actually being a ballad.
The fifth single on the album was “Love Train” which was not on the Australian version of the album, only the international version. I remember the song being played during Ipod commercials for Apple. It is full of gritty guitars and shaky vocals making the song memorable. They pull off some great, unique sounds on this album relying on every instrument they play with extra percussion from Lenny Castro again as well as Dave Sardy who mixed and produced the album as well. I think they were just showing off all they could do on this song.
The last song on the album is actually my least favorite and could have been left off and no one would have noticed or cared. The song is “Vagabond”. This is the other song I had completely forgotten about. I actually don’t like the vocals or the sound. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the album to me so can be skipped.
Despite a couple of missteps, this album was my favorite album of 2006 and still one of my favorite albums, period! I hate they were never able to recreate the magic and sucks they started off with some so great because there is really no way to follow-up an album of this caliber. It never bothered me that they weren’t original in their sound because what band nowadays is truly original. Everyone pulls off their influences and steals a little sound from here or there. Regardless, they pulled of an amazing and stellar album that I will always hold in high regard. I hope you enjoyed the walk through “Wolfmother”.
If you are still reading at this point, then go check out a much better review than mine over at 1537 (Jatstorey.com) and read his take on Wolfmother.