Wolfmother fans must have feared the worst these past few years. Some time after the release of second album, Cosmic Egg, – lead album in these pages in October 2009, and a Top 20 hit in the US – the Brisbane four-piece went ominously quiet. Had they split? Were they on hiatus? Eventually, in March 2011, word spread that they were back in the studio working on a follow-up. Then it all went quiet again.
Only recently has it emerged that, for the time being at least, Wolfmother are no more. Sessions for the third album have instead been appropriated for a solo project by band leader Andrew Stockdale. Not that this is any great shock in itself. Since their inception in 2000, Wolfmother have essentially served as a vehicle for Stockdale, the band’s singer, songwriter and lead guitarist.
And so Keep Moving is pretty much what you might expect: unreconstructed rock’n’roll with thumping great riffs and oodles of crunch. As with Cosmic Egg, there’s a clear debt to Zeppelin, Sabbath and Cream in his attack, albeit glazed with a thin coat of psychedelia. If it ain’t broke… Stockdale calls it “old-school, new-school, up-tempo boogie rock”. And while he probably won’t win any prizes for lyrical profundity, there are plenty of allusions to leaving things behind, heading for fresh pasture with no looking back.
He recently admitted wishing he’d ditched the Wolfmother name after the first personnel shake-up in 2008, and done what he’s doing now: flying alone with the help of a bunch of highly capable session players. His newfound freedom shows, too. The key difference is a broader palette of colours, supplementing the metallic fizz of hard-driving songs like Somebody’s Calling and Of The Earth (a stadium humper of truly Zeppish proportions) with the ringing electric folk of Suitcase (One More Time) or the stringy acoustic stomp of Black Swan.
Bassist Ian Peres remains from the last Wolfmother line-up, joined here by no less than four drummers, two guitarists (one being Mourning Tide’s Vin Steele), a keyboard player and a flugelhorn player. It’s an elastic set-up that mirrors Stockdale’s carte-blanche approach to this album.
These are songs ripped from the roots of classic 70s rock, but delivered with such verve and unfettered joy that it goes way beyond any studied retro nonsense. This is very now. And very Andrew Stockdale.