Wonderlove – My Submarine
by Keavin Wiggins
Orange County residents got their first
major taste of Wonderlove’s new CD “My Submarine” when the local FM rock
station “Cool Radio” put the first single, “What it Seems,” into
heavy rotation late last year. The song quickly shot up to the top
of the station’s nightly request hour and the band’s local audience, which
was already substantial, suddenly swelled overnight. After “What it Seems”
reached those who normally don’t venture out into the clubs to see live
music, their OC shows at the Gypsy Lounge and Anaheim House of Blues began
to fill with new faces and it seemed that “Wonderlove Fever” was becoming
so contagious that the CDC would have to be called in.
Now after a bit of a wait, Wonderlove has finally released their second
full-length album, “My Submarine” and it more than lives up to the expectations.
Most fans that have seen the band perform live over the past year will
be instantly familiar with most of the tracks on the album. But let’s
discuss that for a moment before we delve into the CD. Wonderlove
has made a name for themselves locally not only with their rockin’ melodic
songs but with their high energy live shows. Unlike most modern bands,
these guys understand that a rock show should be more than a few guys standing
on stage parroting back their songs; they actually put on a performance.
From lead vocalist Chris Paul Overall’s frontman stances to lead guitarist
Bryan McIntyre’s supernatural channeling of the late great Jimmy Hendrix.
When you pay to see Wonderlove perform, you get a rock show of the highest
So I was interested to see if these new
songs that went over so well live would translate well as studio recordings.
The short answer; yes they do. In fact, most of the songs sound flawlessly
like they do live, while some of the energy you are used to when hearing
and seeing these tunes performed live is lost in the transition, for the
most part the band retains the heart of the power to these songs. That’s
actually saying quite a bit because there are far too many bands that sound
great on tape but can’t pull it off live because they find all the magic
tools at their disposal in the studio which that can’t count on live.
this is a sophomore album it’s necessary to compare this album to the group’s
debut. Did they change? Is there musical growth? Is this an extension of
their debut? Can you listen to the albums back to back and see the
evolution of the band? With most band’s this kind of comparison is
easy to make. Not so with Wonderlove because their two albums really do
come from two different places.
I will state for the record right now that
I loved the music on the debut. That being said, I was a little shocked
when I first heard it after seeing this band live. That album, “Getting
Off the Revolution,” seemed to be more about Chris Paul Overall’s musical
expression and songwriting than an overall group identity. They had the
big rock sound but that album seemed more about the individual songs and
not an overall defining sound. Although a track like “Dirty” was really
a preview of what was to come with “My Submarine,” other tracks like the
melodious powerpop number “She Don’t Love Me,” the mournful “Return” and
the soulful ballad “Free” gave us a glimpse into the many sides of CPO’s
musical personality. With those explorations into different musical realms,
it really gave the album a lot of diversity.
This time around the band assumes an overall
group identity. In fact, where most of the songs on “Getting Off the Revolution”
were penned by Chris, on “My Submarine” Chris shared the songwriting with
Bryan and drummer Dicki Fliszar, as well as couple of outside co-writters.
So understandably some of the songs seem to differ from the personality
of the first album. The final result is a collection of songs that seemed
to have been road tested live before the band headed into the studio and
once in the studio they did do an admirable job of capturing the energy
and feel of a live band while at the sametime turning out a masterfully
produced studio album.
melodic powerpop and soulful rock of “Getting Off the Revolution” was replaced
this time by a raw-rock meets classic rock and a post-grunge alternative
sound. The first track “What It Seems” could give the Strokes or The Vines
a run for their money, but don’t fear Wonderlove doesn’t fit nicely into
the raw-rock, or as many have taken to calling it “nu garage,” box. It’s
true that their music should appeal to fans of that style of music but
where those groups tend to settle for sticking to the basics, Wonderlove
go the opposite direction with leads and phrasing that fit more in the
classic guitar rock tradition, but gathered under a modern alternative
rock umbrella. That is no more evident than on a track like “Feeling Something
Inside” where the song translates well into the modern alternative rock
realm but wouldn’t have been too out of place on the radio in the late
60’s or early 70’s.
“Fork in the Road” continues that formula
but also flirts on the edges of progressive rock. It has a dark and airy
feel about it and gives Chris a chance to showcase his falsetto talents
and Dicki drums like a madman, joined by Dave Beste’s driving bass lines
and Bryan just plies understated guitar leads in all the right places and
unleashes a bit of the beast as the song climaxes but never pushes you
fully off the cliff. It’s a masterful bit of restraint on Bryan part because
you know he could have used this track to really go fullout with
guitar leads but kept it in the context of the overall song.
Some of the other standout tracks include
the groovy rocker “Beautiful,” another song the bridges the generation
by capturing the best of classic and modern rock. “Lucid” is a trippy little
psychedelic number with a fist pounding intensity as the band seems to
let loose all their pent up energy.
Worm” sounds like what you might get if the Beatles had recorded side two
of Abbey Road in present day with the benefit of modern influences. The
title track is a hypnotically driving song that is a crowd pleaser live
especially where Chris wails at full throttle and Bryan take the opportunity
to shine with his leads.
Ironically, it’s the track “To Lucy With
Love” that seems to land more in the Jellyfish camp than the track “Jellyfish”.
Don’t worry they don’t venture in to the “Baby’s Coming Back” territory
While Wonderlove is best known for their
full-blown live rock show, Chris Paul Overall really shows us what he is
made of as a vocalist and songwriter with the acoustic ballad “Love and
The Essence of Life”. His falsetto range is impressive and carries the
sentiment of the song perfectly, definitely making this another high point
of the album.
Submarine” closes with a groovy mid-tempo rocker written by Bryan called
"Sunshine" that will transport you back to the summer of love and may help
open kids eyes up to the magic of the music of that era. It’s a perfect
end to a very strong album and seems to sum up the overall feel of the
Wonderlove impresses me personally because
they touch on a lot of the my favorite musical styles from melodic hard
rock to the acid rock period of classic rock to the best elements of modern
alternative as well as tap dancing on the edges of the raw rock revival
without taking the plunge over the side. Given this mixed musical identity,
it may be tough for this band to capture the attention of the narrow minded
A&R folks from the major labels who seem to be running around signing
up the same band over and over again, but all it will take is one tuned
in guy or gal to see the potential here and Wonderlove will be off and
running on a major scale. Until then, the people that really matter, the
fans, seem to get what Wonderlove is all about and at least in the small
corner of the globe where this band resides, they have already reached
the pinnacle of superstardom. Now it’s time to take it to the rest of the
world, and “My Submarine” is the perfect vehicle to do just that!
– My Submarine
Wonderlove.net to learn more about the band, download some mp3's and purchase