I had a blast with Wolfmother's prior album, Rock 'n' Roll Baby, released right at the end of 2019, even though it was so short that I struggled to call it a full album; a mini-album maybe. This shock release, dropped on the streaming services without any notice, isn't much longer, only squeaking past a half hour by a nose, but it's fundamentally disappointing. It's enjoyable enough to listen to, with all the component parts you might expect from a Wolfmother album but, even on a first time through, it feels off and, rather like the Star Wars movie The Force Awakens, which was enjoyable to watch, it continues to get worse the more we think about it.
Part of that is the production, because this feels more like an unpolished demo recorded on cheap equipment than it does a proper studio release. Now, it was recorded during COVID and the lo-fi aspect is surely deliberate, but it's offputting to me, especially with regards to the vocals, which I could believe were recorded on a broken mike. Part of it is that Wolfmother songs continue to get shorter; half of the ten on offer here fail to reach three minutes and one doesn't even last to two. Like Rock 'n' Roll Baby, the album's over before it's really begun.
And a large part of it is that the whole thing just feels derivative, as if Wolfmother have done this before or that other people did and really didn't care too much. The most overt lack of originality comes on Upload, which I could swear blind is a studio demo of Kiss in 1978 covering the new single by Foreigner called Hot Blooded just because they could, with absolutely no intention of releasing it to the public. It has to be on some collector's edition box set of outtakes somewhere. But all the songs here feel derivative.
Fellin Love (whatever that means) feels like Wolfmother's own Woman, but with a thinner sound than I'm getting listening to that right now on YouTube. Rock Out is back to seventies Kiss again, as are so many of these songs. Humble is almost an Ozzy Osbourne solo song but with guitars edited out and the bass pumped up to a blur in some vain attempt to counter that. Metal & Fire feels like a Joan Jett riff, as do so many others, especially the closer, Walking.
The worst songs wait for the second half. Metal & Fire is so derivative it sounds like every eighties band all at once, but with thinner production than they had back then and with the cheese amped up for no good reason. This one's almost a parody. That it's catchy doesn't help its case. The vocals on Ego are cheap and conversational and that just doesn't work over a fluid guitar that I'm sure I heard on a song on Motörhead's Another Perfect Day album. It's good guitar. It's awful vocals. The result is embarrassing. "Who am I?" is the final line and I wondered that too.
I know some people didn't like Rock 'n' Roll Baby but it did the job for me. It was catchy stuff that felt like Andrew Stockdale cared. Sure, it's ridiculously short but it worked. This one doesn't and I can't imagine fans being too happy with him after this. Maybe dropping it without any fanfare at all was the best approach. It's the easiest way that fans are going to ignore it or treat it more like a bonus than a real album. It wouldn't surprised me if it got yanked back off streaming again and its existence denied.
I try not to post bad reviews, but I like Wolfmother and Rock 'n' Roll Baby made it onto my highly recommended list for 2019. Maybe this will serve as a warning to fans not to bother with it. I'm in public service mode. Unlike that one, this is not highly recommended and it's not recommended in any fashion. Steer clear.