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Wolfmother “Wolfmother” (2005)

Are you a fan of Black Sabbath? T-Rex? Led Zeppelin? Deep Purple? The Doors? Nazareth? David Bowie? Kiss? The guys in this band certainly are.

I am sometimes a little bit late to the party. Wolfmother is a perfect example of that.

The first time I ever heard anything from them was when my friend Michael and I were in Taichung for an event, after which we ended up at a really funky coffee shop called the Broken House (which was literally a broken house that looked like it should have been condemned). A song came on over the sound system that made me sit up and take notice. In order to find out what it was I went to harass the barista, who had no idea what I was talking about. Eventually I managed to get him to let me see what music was playing via their Apple music account, and I took a picture of their screen so that I could investigate further. It was a picture that, of course, I promptly forgot about. Honestly, I am always saying “ooh! What’s that?!” and making notes that I then forget about.

Fast forward about five years and I have just gotten a new phone. The joy (horror?) of getting a new phone is organizing and deleting all the photos that are languishing unloved on your old phone. As I was plowing through 26 Gigs of photos on my old phone (kill me now) I stumbled across these screenshots that I vaguely remembered taking. Of course, it helped that they were in context with pictures of the Broken House Cafe.

I remembered taking the pictures. I remembered why I had taken the pictures, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what the music might have sounded like.

Queue Spotify… Shortly thereafter… Queue Amazon. CLICK!!

I now own a copy of Wolfmother‘s self-titled first LP.

Wolfmother hails from Sydney, Australia and formed in 2004. Released in 2005, their debut album was recorded as a trio, and was the only Wolfmother album to feature all three founding members.

Guitarist and Vocalist Andrew Stockdale‘s voice definitely channels Marc Bolan on more than one occasion, with all the emotional intensity (insanity?) that that implies. Drummer Myles Heskett provides all the thunder you would expect of late 70s hard rock. Chris Ross provides superb bass that rivals some of the best work of John Paul Jones or Geezer Butler and also like John Paul Jones, supplies the keyboards that help to round out the huge sound of this three piece outfit.

I apologize for the quick barrage of references to rock heroes past, but suffice it to say that Wolfmother is nothing if not a band made up of guys who were raised on a steady diet of 70s rock. This album absolutely plays homage to some seminal hard rock bands of the 70s, without ever cloning or mocking them. From the Black Sabbath inspired tempo shits, to the Led Zepplinesque acoustic breaks and the T-Rex influenced glam stompers, there is a sincere love of 70s hard rock that permeates every track on the album without ever succumbing to nostalgia. The sound on this album is HUGE. It is heavy and punchy, but never strays into a caricature of 70s rock or anything resembling 80s heavy metal. It is it’s own beast, but what a beast it is!

This is what modern pop music would sound like if its parents had been more into Aerosmith and Nazareth instead of Duran Duran, and Depeche Mode.

Wolfmother manages to make seriously hard rocking music that sounds like something you would have expected to hear on the radio in the mid-80s if the 70s had never ended. It feels like you might have stumbled on an artifact that had been buried in a 70s time capsule. And yet the thoroughly modern production manages to make the aesthetic feel fresh and current, if slightly out-of-time.

One of the biggest surprises for me, is the way the album manages to feel masculine, but not exclusively so. There is a very twenty-first century masculinity at work on this album, which manages to channel the androgyny of Bowie and Bolan without artifice, creating a new atmosphere, one that is particularly unique when compared to many of the biggest bands of the 70s who were quite aggressively heteronormative. Or maybe it’s just that Wolfmother doesn’t care who or what you are, you’re welcome to the party? The opening scream at the beginning of album opener Dimension certainly sounds naff enough, and defiantly says “I don’t give a rat’s ass WHAT I sound like”.

My favourite tracks in the album are Woman, Colossal, Love Train (no, it’s not an O’Jays cover), Dimension, White Unicorn, Witchcraft, and of course, the band’s biggest hit Joker & the Thief. Hmmm.. might have been easier to list the tracks I wasn’t entirely crazy about.

On the album proper (excluding the bonus tracks which make up the entirety of side D) there were only 2 songs that I rated less than 4½ stars: Mind’s Eye and Vagabond. Even the strange Apple Tree managed to grow on me and has become a track I quite like. In fact, though it was my least favourite track to begin with, Apple Tree is the song that most made me feel Marc Bolan‘s influence. I can’t help but smile at how truly bizarre the beginning of the song is.

In case you’re wondering what track that was playing at the broken house coffee shop, it was Woman (MSTRKRFT Remix). I was thrilled to discover that this remix was included as a bonus track on the tenth anniversary reissue of the vinyl album, which is the one I bought. It is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the album, though I prefer the original version now that I’ve heard it.

What do you think? Had you heard of Wolfmother before? Are you a fan? I’d love to hear from you!

Have I missed anything? Are there any songs I should have included in our playlist? Drop me a line in the comment section below! Remember to subscribe so that you don’t miss our next monthly (ish) post (We’ll never bother you more than once a month). PLUS! subscribers get a discount on any purchase made from us.

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