Man, do you remember back in 2005 when Wolfmother dropped their debut album? That glorious mix of proggy, organ-drenched, chunky guitar goodness that reminded us that Uriah Heep were pretty cool(at least Ken Hensley’s bits) and that Robert Plant would’ve sounded pretty damn cool fronting Black Sabbath. Yeah, I remember that self-titled well. There was plenty of folks yelling from the rafters that Wolfmother were nothing more than hacky wannabes regurgitating what we’d all digested over the course of 40 years of garage, psych, stoner, and heavy metal musical history. Well to them I say “Back off, man!” Regardless what Andrew Stockdale, Chris Ross, and Myles Heskett were regurgitating or what they were derivative of, it worked. Great riffs, catchy hooks, and serious grooves. Well then in 2008 Wolfmother’s rhythm section said adios and left Stockdale to fend for himself and take all the heat for the band splintering.
Here we are in 2016 and here we are talking about a new Wolfmother album called Victorious. This is Andrew Stockdale’s fourth album under the Wolfmother moniker, following Cosmic Egg and New Crown. Victorious is the weakest yet. Here’s the thing, I don’t think any of the records released after that self-titled debut have been Wolfmother records. They’ve been Andrew Stockdale records. I think if you look at them, as well as this new one, as solo LPs that grading curve can be manipulated a bit. As an Andrew Stockdale album Victorious is okay. As a Wolfmother album it’s a rehash of a rehash.
Victorious has got a little bit of everything on it. Big, meaty, gas guzzling rockers like “The Love That You Give”, “Baroness”, and “Happy Face”. These songs are cleaner, crisper, and sort of thinner shadows of that massive sound Stockdale made with Heskett and Ross back in 2005. While not as visceral as Wolfmother of yore, they’re still fun for a bit. “City Lights”, “Gypsy Caravan”, and “Eye of the Beholder” are second tier rock. They sound like retreads of older songs that were retreads to begin with. A copy of a copy of copy. After your first run thru you’ll be hitting the skip button. Then you’ve got overproduced tracks like “Victorious”, “Pretty Peggy”, and “Best Of A Bad Situation” that feel like they’re pandering to Kings of Leon fans, complete with “oohs” and “ahhs” in the choruses and hand claps scattered about so the arena crowds will have something to do besides yawn at the shows.
I’m not sure why Andrew Stockdale is still calling this band Wolfmother. It’s not Wolfmother. Wolfmother was those three guys that put out songs like “Colossal”, “White Unicorn”, and “Woman”. Those three guys could’ve taken Wolfmother into new territory. New dimensions. Instead, we’ve got the singer with a backing band playing cover band versions of that first great record. As an Andrew Stockdale record Victorious is understandable. As a Wolfmother record Victorious is anything but.