There's no denying Australian heavy rock trio Wolfmother has been raised on rock -- specifically, raised on '70s rock. Problem is, from all appearances on their eponymous debut, they made their journey into the past via the twin gateway drugs of the White Stripes and Queens of the Stone Age, and once they dug back to the original Zeppelin and Sabbath texts (stopping along the way for some Soundgarden discs and maybe, for lyrical inspiration, Yes and Rush), they indulged so much it screwed with their sense of aesthetics. They threw everything and anything together, not bothering with minor problems like how their frenzied retro-rock doesn't quite support songs with titles like "The White Unicorn" and "Where Eagles Have Been" -- Zeppelin drew inspiration from JRR Tolkien and Sabbath certainly sang about fairies and gnomes, but neither band sounded as precious, inarticulate, or confused as Wolfmother does here. And their naïveté is not limited to guitarist Andrew Stockdale's stock swords 'n' sorcery imagery: they mix up their musical clichés in bewildering ways, as riffs lifted from Soundgarden ("Rusty Cage" provides the opening for "Joker & the Thief") give way to a QOTSA stomp as sung by Jack White (whose ghost is also heard on the title of "Apple Tree," not to mention its frenetic verses), or how a complicated Zep riff is graced by a Jethro Tull flute solo on "Witchcraft." Blame it on their youth -- all this stuff was new to them, so they absorbed it all at once then quickly regurgitated it in ways that won't seem to make much sense to anybody familiar with their inspirations (and their clunky funk-rock workout "Love Train" simply won't make sense to anybody anywhere). At times, Wolfmother's unintentionally bizarre amalgams are kind of delightful, and the group does have a basic, brutal sonic force that is pretty appealing, but even at their best, they never banish the specters of the bands that they desperately mimic throughout this promising but muddled debut. They have enough of a good thing going here to suggest that they'd be a killer live band, but not enough to make this record all too memorable on its own terms. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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