By Skwerl at 7:09 PM Monday, October 19th 2009
In a classic YouTube clip, as Wolfmother performs in the background, Mike Patton interrupts his own interview to suppress the urge to vomit, asking incredulously, “what year are we in?” followed shortly by “are people that stupid? I guess they are.” This, coming from a guy who recorded a 45 minute album consisting entirely of grunts and farts. We’ve used similar analogies to describe shitty ‘experimental’ bands, but seriously, Patton actually laid down 33 tracks of spontaneous mouth noise, with absolutely no musical instruments or even words involved.
There are a couple of points there: ‘Star’ ratings are basically bullshit of course (we can admit that and use them), and Mike Patton isn’t exactly the most responsible arbiter of taste. But we caught Wolfmother’s live act ourselves, and walked away with a lot of the same thoughts.
After being virtually harassed for months, repeatedly beaten over the head by an assault of press inquiries, reminded that frontman Andrew Stockdale had fired and replaced both of the other members of the three-piece, we took Wolfmother’s sophomore effort Cosmic Egg for a spin.
The album opens with the same old formula- two power chords and hokey rhymes only there because they sound cool. Cosmic Egg is a hodgepodge of blatant Beatles, Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath rip-offs, and California Queen is no exception, with a chorus lifted from Paranoid. I will however give some credit for the track’s fiery outro, featuring one of the better solos on the album, courtesy of newcomer Aidan Nemeth with the help of what I’m willing to bet is a Digitech Whammy pedal.
If there was any hope that Wolfmother had grown as a band, it goes right out the window with lead single New Moon Rising, basically a Spïnal Tap song parodying the usual suspects, circa 1973. White Feather follows, an even more blatant Zeppelin rip-off, followed by Sundial, a Sabbath rip-off… And so Cosmic Egg goes for about 50 minutes too many.
Sissy ballad In The Morning is the Beatles and then it’s Zeppelin, 10,000 Feet is Sabbath and then it’s Zeppelin… It actually features the phrase castles in the sand. You listen to Cosmic Egg and you actually find yourself wondering if maybe they can just rip off someone a little less obvious. They could slip in some Chuck Berry or T. Rex or Cream or Neil Young, and maybe even pass something off as original.
While Wolfmother is diabolically derivative, defenders will be quick to somewhat correctly assert that all music is derivative. Zeppelin themselves shamelessly rehashed American blues. Even Mike Patton’s abominable avant-garde mouth diarrhea was inspired by the work of a Japanese noise band.
However, the problem with Wolfmother, besides the fact that the bands they steal from are the most obvious ones conceivable, is that there’s nothing else going on. Not a single one of any of their songs has anything that speaks to the soul. You can dance to it, you can sing along, you can rock out to it on your air / plastic guitar. If you get all your rock music from whatever radio station your local sports bar plays, or if you were born last week, that’s probably more than enough for you. You’ve got the dime for the dozen. But we don’t have the time.