Friday, 12 February 2021

DeWolff - Wolffpack (2021)

Country: The Netherlands
Style: Psychedelic Southern Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 5 Feb 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | Twitter | YouTube

Latest on the list of bands I should have been listening to for years but hadn't heard of until now are this delightful Dutch outfit called DeWolff. They were formed in 2007 and, if I'm counting right, this is their eighth studio album, even if the last one was recorded on the road for the princely sum of €50. They won an Edison Award, the Dutch equivalent to the UK's Mercury Prize, as the Best Rock Band of 2019, so they're clearly well known over there.

So what do they sound like? Well, they're a kind of hybrid of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Stevie Wonder, with other notable seventies artists like Deep Purple and the Bee Gees popping in for close ups at points. As you'll imagine from that combination, it's wild enough that it's hard to actually define what they do, except to say that, when they're not finding a Black Crowes vibe, they sometimes appear to be the entire decade of the seventies rolled up into a single band containing only three people. Well, most of it at least. They're clearly not fans of Yes or Judas Priest but most of the rest is here.

They play funky psychedelia with a Hammond organ floating through it, hints of Marc Bolan jamming with Sly & The Family Stone. There's a fuzzy guitar but it's not overt enough for this to be counted as stoner rock. It's never far from southern rock but everything is built on melody above riffs, so think a song like Four Walls of Raiford over Free Bird. It's soul, it's funk, it's even disco on Half of Your Love—and that makes two albums in a row with a disco influence for me; when did that become cool again? There are way too many sounds here to cover in a paragraph of reasonable length.

In fact, there are way too many sounds here even in individual songs to cover them properly. Yes You Do, for instance, which opens up the album, begins like Vangelis, turns into fuzzy Skynyrd and ends up stomping on John Kongos ground. Treasure City Moonchild is a soulful Deep Purple number with scat singing Gillan but featuring Gary Rossington on guitar instead of Ritchie Blackmore. Lady J kicks off with a driving Golden Earring vibe but gradually becomes Skynyrd at Muscle Shoals. Roll Up the Rise is a playful swamp rock song like Dr. John covering Creedence.

If there's anything here newer than the seventies, it's the Black Crowes. R U My Saviour may start out like the Stones but it soon turns into the Crowes and actually stays there for a change, with its funky beat and a welcome brass section adding to its depth. I believe DeWolff are a trio, who have remained consistent since the very beginning, but there are a lot of instruments here. Guests include Ian Peres of Wolfmother and, though he isn't on my version, Luther Dickinson, formerly of the Black Crowes.

While I'm certainly better versed in some of these genres than others, most of this sounds really good to me. Everything is variety, but there's such a consistency in the overall feel so that nothing feels at all out of place, except perhaps Do Me, which Pablo van der Poel, singer and guitarist, may feel is the greatest song he's ever written but I would call easily the weakest of the ten on offer here. It played a lot like an elevator music cover of Band on the Run with all the good bits taken out.

That's the only song here that I'd skip on repeat listens, but everything else is a highlight, even if I'm leaning more towards Yes You Do, Lady J and R U My Saviour right now. Ask me tomorrow and I might plump for Treasure City Moonchild, Roll Up the Rise and Hope Train instead. These songs may well be ones that connect with us differently depending on our mood at the time, even though they're all the sort of upbeat antidote to COVID and whatever else is dragging us down today.

And so I've finally discovered DeWolff and I'm rather happy for that. I'm sure many of you will wonder where I've been, given that there are seven studio albums preceding this one, with wildly different art on their covers, and a few live albums as well. I can see a busy weekend exploring all this.

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