By: Andy Little
The Wolfhounds | facebook | bandcamp |
Released on October 14, 2016 via Odd Box Records
Arriving in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the NME fronted C86 compilation tape, sees the legendary Indie veterans, The Wolfhounds, release their first album proper since 1990’s Attitude. Reformed in 2006, 2014’s Middle Age Freaks album is, strictly speaking, a compilation of a batch of singles they put out on current label, Odd Box Records, with original founders and songwriters Dave Callahan (vocals, guitar) and Andy Golding (guitar) now backed with the rhythm section of Pete Wilkins (drums) and Richard Golding (bass).
While the original Indie scene is now rightly lauded the Wolfies were, and still are, a far more complicated proposition than the twee jingle jangle guitar pop image commonly attired to the said genre. Always keen admirers of Captain Beefhart, Nuggets, and Sonic Youth’s guitar noise experimentalism, are important components to their Indie/Garage output. Their first clutch of 12 inch singles/E.P.s (especially those on the Pink label) are a treasure trove mix of early Indie guitar pop gems, ‘Anti-Midas Touch’, ‘Cruelty’, leftfield guitar experimentalism, ‘Another hazy day on the Lazy A’ and the potent garage punk howl and rage of ‘Deadthink’ and “L.A. Juice.’
On Untied Kingdom there are the familiar ingredients but this time embraced with an unsurprising maturity and wider vision. While there still are the catchy Indie pop sensibilities – ‘Comedians’, ‘Thanks’, and ‘Everyday monsters’, ‘Legendary Childhood’ – the scratchy, prickly, angry, tremolo driven noise guitar outbursts from one of the genre’s truly underrated guitar heroes, Andy Golding, is never far away. Check out the edgy, raging, screeching guitar on ‘Stupid poor’ or his trademark spiky soloing on ‘Now, I’m a killer.’
They expertly expand their creative adventurism with an array of musical instruments to enhance their signature sound. Rhodri Marsden (Scritti Politti) on keyboards and Terry Edwards (PJ Harvey, Gallon Drunk, plus many others) adds horns to give an extra uplift to ‘Legendary childhood.’ The addition of Violin (Paul Warwick) blends in to enhance the epic, rock out majesty of the 7 minutes and 54 seconds album closer ‘Across the river of death.’
Prior to splitting in 1990 they explored the potential of female backing vocals with the now sadly departed Mary Hanson before she joined forces with former Pink label mates McCarthy’s Tim Gane, along with Laetitia Sadler, to form Stereolab. This time a bountiful amount of female backing vocals supplied by Alice Golding, Elin Grimstad, Katherine M Whitaker form an effective twist and contrast to Dave Callahan’s acerbic tone and delivery. It works a treat on ‘Legendary Childhood’, ‘Lucky Heather’, and throughout the album to add subtle splashes of colour and light.
Never a band to shy away from political, economic, or social observations, earlier songs about the trials and tribulations of putting a roof over one’s head in ‘Rent Act’, and the wider world problem and cultural implications of Aids, ‘Rain stops play’, are just two examples. But with Untied Kingdom they focus their attention on the somewhat complex theme of modern city life so it is, at the very least loosely, a concept album. The inclusion of Joel Goodman’s renowned photo capturing familiar sights in towns and cities across the U.K. at weekends as the album cover is fitting.
Dave Callahan has a lot to get off his chest with thought provoking themes, coinciding with personal reflections, are delivered with a mix of anger, sardonic bite, and forthrightness, to mark their re-emergence as creatively relevant in these post Brexit uncertain times.
The self-confessed middle aged freaks have produced a record which showcases the many facets of their sound and more besides, this could, quite possibly, be their masterpiece.