There's an old cliche in the reviews world; if you find a really talented band who sounds retro, hail them as rock saviors and watch people flock the bandwagon. The phrase "this band will save rock" has become so overused as of late it has lost all relevance, and I emphasize this so that my own cliche can be spotlighted.
Wolfmother, a three-piece which hails from Sydney, Australia, is on to something special. Over the years I've heard so many people call so many unworthy bands the messiah of rock music that when something actually that amazing comes along, it seems surreal. Wolfmother is the first band I've heard recently, therefore, to be worthy of playing rock music. Therein lies the difference. While so many trumpet this act or that outfit as being the heroes of rock music, rock music doesn't need saving. Rock is timeless goddamit, and as such, it will outlive any and all trends. Rock isn't saved by bands, bands are saved by rock. We as rock fans shouldn't be looking for bands to save rock; we should look for bands who know how to play it right!
Thankfully, Wolfmother not only know how to play rock music right, they play it with aplomb. At fifteen minutes long, Dimensions is one short EP; maybe it's the extra music videos my edition has (more on those later) but this is still one fantastic piece of music. The Aussie trio plays crunchy rock that recalls the 1970's hard rock heyday; Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and the like all come to mind. Despite the fact they've got some actual balls to their sound (sorry to say Franz Ferdinand, or whatever happens to be in this week), never does Wolfmother sacrifice the almighty hook on the alter of pretentiousness. In fact, this is really radio-friendly stuff. On top of that, the band has a mystical vibe that fits only one modern band I can think of; Sweden's almighty Witchcraft sounds like a perfect fit for a hazy, power-of-rock music tour of divine proportions.
To top off their sound, frontman/guitarist Andrew Stockdale has a set of amazing pipes. Sounding like the Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler being strangled by Rush's Geddy Lee, this is one of those bands you'll recognize right away as soon as the vocals kick in. And kick in they do, at least on the lead-off song "Dimensions." Stockdale lets loose with a freakish wail, all before the band sets themselves into a well-paced, rocking groove of retro sludge. The band has mastered the art of acting subtle; little bass notes are added here and there to add weight, and it sounds as if those mighty riffs they churn out are stretched just as far as they should be. Add in some guitar fret rises and you've got one helluva song.
The spectacular "Mind's Eye" is a song that I cannot praise enough. It slowly builds out of choral arrangements on the keyboards and sparkling notes on the guitar, into a prog masterpiece. Something about this really struck a chord with me folks; perhaps it is Stockdale's near-spiritual shrieks over pulsing guitars, or the patient keys always humming in the background. The bouncy "Love Train" is funky, heavy groove rock, and it doesn't come across as much the first time you hear it after "Mind's Eye." It's not bad for all purposes, but rather like leaving Heaven (the last song) for Earth (this song). Despite this, when left out of comparisons with other tracks, it's still a strong tune and it will definitely get stuck in your head for some time. The moody "The Earth's Rotation Around the Sun" is largely instrumental, and closes the musical portion of the disc with cathartic yet lush bubbles of futuristic rock grandeur and billowing clouds of mellow ambiance.
The visual portion of the CD contains videos for both "Dimensions" and "Mind's Eye." "Dimensions" is frenetic and energetic cuts of the band playing in a studio. It ends up being standard video fare, with a few bonus points for the quick switches between color and black-and-white film. Andrew Stockdale also attacks the mic with an intensity and fury worthy of Mick Jagger, and I can already visualize Wolfmother as a powerful live act. "Mind's Eye" meanwhile finds the band playing open air in the notorious Devil's Punchbowl. The song's epic majesty really shines here, as the barren and harsh desert landscapes give it a whole new meaning. Both videos are well-shot and focus the band's many strengths and are recommended.
In closing, these Aussies know how to show the current tripe of America and Europe a thing or two. In an era where dance-y, emotive new-wave rock is considered rock 'n roll, it sure is refreshing to hear someone who remembers what the gods of yore sound like. Wolfmother is a band to watch, and I'm hoping they conquer these shores very, VERY soon.
Tracks (video edition)
2. Mind's Eye
3. Love Train
4. The Earth's Rotation Around the Sun
1. Dimensions music video
2. Mind's Eye music video