Album Reviews

Wolfmother – Victorious


Does anyone remember how Wolfmother was tipped to be the “saviour of rock n roll” about ten years ago? How they were supposed to recapture the debauchery and majesty of the halcyon days of Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page and Angus Young and take rock music back from chic indie kids. While their self-titled debut was an enjoyable romp with real barnstormers on display, by the time their follow-up rolled around the band had all but lost their momentum and stardom. You can point to a few reasons for this: loss of two-thirds of the band in between the first and second record, the second album slump and a lack of support from the label, but moreover, it’s because Wolfmother was always a one trick pony and after you’ve seen the first time you experience it, it becomes a case of diminishing returns. This is definitely the case with their latest LP, Victorious, a record that proves how both rip-roaringly exciting and interminably banal the band is.

To be kind, it does a number of things completely correct. It’s a lean record, clocking in at a little over half and hour, that wisely opts to strip away any lingering fat from the last two releases and go straight to the point. When the stars align, it’s really great fun. Lead single ‘Victorious’, for example, is a really fantastic slice of fuzzy, early heavy metal with soaring sing-a-long vocals, welcomely optimistic lyrics and a potent main riff. It’s pure, unadulterated fun and it packs a mighty wallop. Even when the proceedings begin to mellow, there is an innocent charm at play that makes, what could easily be soapy balladry, into a welcome relief from the more energetic cuts. Of the smoother cuts, ‘Pretty Peggy’ and ‘Best of A Bad Situation’ with their Tom Petty leanings are a very sweet little numbers that contrast nicely with their surroundings. Overall, it’s a well-balanced album that juggles its heavy and relaxed inclinations very neatly and managing to achieve a similar trick to what they pulled off on their debut. But therein lies the rub.

Wolfmother hasn’t changed since 2005. If you jumbled up the tracks from Victorious and their first record, you’d struggle to arrange them correctly. There is something very disheartening about seeing a band release the same record time and time again who aren’t AC/DC. Chief songwriter Andrew Stockdale is limited, but he should have more cards up his sleeve than another section that boils down to “dun dun widdly widdly, dun dun widdly widdly”. That movement, incidentally, appears on every heavy track here and does lead to a monotony and tedium with the record that only increases as you get closer to the, admittedly rather enjoyable, closer ‘Eye of the Beholder’. Classic rock never really allowed for much innovation, but there comes a point where the formula needs to be ripped up and thrown out and that point should be at the decade mark.

But consistency and a rigidity of form are the keys to success in this genre. The thing about being part of a dinosaur rock band is that you’re as old as the hills so your expectation for innovation goes to naught as time marches forward. The audience is really clamouring for an Aerosmith techno track or for AC/DC to suddenly discover G-Funk, even if that would be incredible. In many ways, Wolfmother has given the audience what they want and that’s all they really have to do. Victorious is a modest slice of heavy music, with enough charm to coast by for a few listens, but before long becomes lost to the same shelves that house Night in the Ruts, Black Ice or DehumanizerWill Murphy