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Wolfmother

+ {Andrew Stockdale}

Classic rock has been plundered and resurrected in many shapes and forms since its 70s halcyon days and, with Australia’s post-millennium rockers on the block, WOLFMOTHER, there was no better purveyor of the greats like BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN, DEEP PURPLE, BLUE CHEER, et al; throw in 90s acts: QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, The WHITE STRIPES and SOUNDGARDEN.
Formed in 2000 in Erskineville, Sydney, stoner-rock was again back on the menu as Messrs Andrew Stockdale (vocals/guitar), Chris Ross (bass/organ) and Myles Heskett (drums), caused a minor stir in the heartland Australia. Building on the foundations, WOLFMOTHER finally took their trade and talents a bit more seriously, releasing a 4-track demo (for Modular Records) to the public in 2004. Thought worthy of a transfer/release to a Brit audience a year later, the eponymous EP took them beyond expectations and on to the roster of the mighty Interscope imprint in America (Island in Britain). A rush-released “Dimensions” EP, proved the promise of the band, while `Dimension’ (its minor UK hit lead track) cemented the trio’s position as pretenders to the hard-rock throne. Bolstered by a blistering Brit hit, `Woman’, the eponymous WOLFMOTHER (2006) {*7} album met with a mixed response from certain critics. While several Kerrang! kids were happy they’d found its new saviour of heavy-rock, albeit very retro, others accused them of downright plagiarism, at least in the group’s beefy riffs. `White Unicorn’ nodded to ‘Sabbath and `Zeppelin with a twist of Jack White, and others such as `Apple Tree’, `Joker & The Thief’, gleaned and skimmed the top off all the Devil’s best licks. But all in all, who really cared, not the band’s bank manager as the set climbed into the US and UK Top 30.
And just as Grammys and other awards came their way in ‘07, so did major personnel problems. Unhappy at their mainman for some reason or other, Ross and Heskett took their leave in August 2008. Stockdale had no choice but to carry on, recruiting three new members, Aidan Nemeth (rhythm guitar), Ian Peres (bass/keyboards) and Dave Atkins (drums), to work on what was to be the band’s tricky second set, COSMIC EGG (2009) {*6}. Produced by Englishman, Alan Moulder, Stockdale and Co once again tended to carry the classic rock torch rather than concoct something fresh and ground-breaking. `New Moon Rising’ for example could well’ve pilfered from ‘Sabbath’s `War Pigs’, while `White Feather’ was a combination of ‘Zeppelin vs. ‘Stripes.
Nevertheless, the appeal of WOLFMOTHER never waned, and despite a few further personnel changes (Atkins made way in April 2010 for Will Rockwell-Scott of The Mooney Suzuki, plus Vin Steele replaced Nemeth, etc.), the band played on. Confusingly enough, ANDREW STOCKDALE, enlisted further trustees, Hamish Rosser (to supersede Will) and Elliott Hammond (in addition), all in time for a proposed solo album under his own moniker.
KEEP MOVING (2013) {*5} was son of Wolfmother, a record that was full of monster riffs and Andrew doing his best ROBERT PLANT impersonation – albeit, a very good one. Triggered by download single, `Long Way To Go’, STOCKDALE teleported his youthful audience back to the 70s. Presumptuous and dogmatic to think that rawk fans worldwide would know that he was the man behind the once-strong WM, the neo-psych heaviness of several of the pieces just didn’t cut the mustard in the “Custard Pie” here.
Wisely sacrificing a doomed solo career to re-kick-start the WOLFMOTHER moniker, Stockdale (alongside Peres and Steele) went all-digital for “comeback” set, NEW CROWN (2014) {*4}. Sadly, in the lost years, the stock of Stockdale had plummeted to new depths, while the self-financed album was released to a whimper rather than a bang. Stateside, it still managed to scrape a week in the Top 200, but with no “Woman” on board to give them a leg up, the fuss and fuzz had fizzled out. A sprawling shambles of a recording, or just Stockdale creating a bit of scratchy DIY vinyl authenticity (without the actual grooves), stoners would be hard pushed to love it, with the exception of `I Ain’t Got No’, `How Many Times’ and the title track.
Although seasoned studio drummers Josh Freese and Joey Waronker were subsequently recruited for WOLFMOTHER’s fourth outing, VICTORIOUS (2016) {*6}, the possibilities of performing live was down to sticksman Alex Carapetis. Universal (UMe) Records had given Stockdale (and Peres) another chance for promotion into the premiership of hard-rock acts, and with Britain, Germany and Australia rating the set Top 30, maybe the tide was turning once again. Building on their old-school-style Sabbath/Zeppelin/Purple hook-lines, anyone old enough to remember the glory days of said bands would either love or loathe the uniformity of mainstream marmite tracks, `Gypsy Caravan’, `The Love That You Give’, `Eye Of The Beholder’ and the title track single; all a bit of Kerrang-dang-doodle all night long if truth be told.
© MC Strong/MCS Aug2013-Feb2016

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