Wolf Am I – Lead The Way
Record Label: Alcopop Records
Release Date: August 10, 2009
Lead The Way, Wolf Am I’s first release since changing their name from something less rad than Wolf Am I, ends with the lines, “We’ll take our time to appreciate what’s happening.” A weary gang of dudes delivers the simple line after a soothing lull in the band’s post-hardcore via Brand New stylings, and it quite accurately describes my late-but-fashionable love affair with this British outfit. Even after hearing the band’s impressive sneak peak single Glasgow 7 ages ago, I fought the urge to delve any deeper. (I’ve had the same haircut for 9 years.) But I got super drunk during an episode of Sherlock Holmes (the British series with the positively icy Jeremy Brett) and, you guessed it, investigated. Boy oh boy was this a mystery I was pleased to solve! It wasn’t elementary at all! It was middle school-y!
Speaking of “Glasgow Seven” – I half-mentioned it, way up there before I completely lost your respect – it is the best representation of Wolf Am I’s intense rock formula. Husky vocals murmur the lines, “We’re going to hell for this,” before the groove erupts into a chorus primed for alternative rock stations. Most of Lead The Way’s songs are dark in tone, but the polish added to each track makes them sleek in a non-pop way. You can hear the deep bass pulses with the same clarity as the bending guitar riffs, a detail that serves to induce the sort of anxiety we feel during horror flicks.
“Down At The Golden Cup” displays one of Wolf Am I’s more interesting facets. Mostly due to the band’s savant-like understanding of tension building, it’s usually the verses that become the most noteworthy. It’s not that the hooks aren’t pleasing, for instance “Golden Cup” makes good use of a hooligan-like gang chorus, but the build-ups are just so dramatic. The way they string us on throughout the beginning of “The Good Life (1975)” is almost unbelievable. After a minute of simple strumming and fast-paced sing-speaking, a hearty manscream becomes the song’s entrance into jittery uncertainty. What rock really needs is a sense of urgency, and Wolf Am I push us faster and faster throughout Lead The Way. Since the band recorded this album themselves and then shopped for a label, it became that much easier to cram each style and nuance into the album’s 11 songs (i.e. the warbling guitars of instrumental “Armageddon, Come” that become an 80’s-meets-Moving Mountains hybrid). Nothing is missing because nobody said, "No." Novel.
When trying to think of a better straightforward rock album from last year - a style I admittedly shy away from now since I am hip and also have old man ears - I can scarcely think of one. You could take that negatively: The genre is not my forte so what do I know? Or you can take it positively: The genre is not my forte yet Lead The Way still makes me wet my pants. Decision time.
Recommended If You Like: Brand New, Anberlin after puberty, gigs, Bayonets, pigs