1. Big Talk
2. California Burning
3. Once In A Blue Moon
4. Double Crossing Man
5. Tombstone Child
6. Deceit & Woo
7. Freeway Flight
8. Tragedy? Not Today
11. Outta Step & Ill At Ease
Rock doesn’t get much more classic in style or exuberantly convincing than this. Not a note sounds as if it was played later than 1978, or indeed in Utrecht in 2017, as is the unlikely case here (somewhere with both Zep and Allmans sessions bleeding in through the walls seems more credible).
But within their own gleefully built parameters, DeWolff’s arrangements are so imaginatively freewheeling, and their spirit so open-hearted, that they brim with versatile vigour in the 21st century. This eighth album by a trio still not out of their twenties is a blueprint for classic rock as an enduring form.
Singer-guitarist Pablo van de Poel and drummer brother Luka have one notso-secret weapon in Hammond organist Robin Piso, whose gorgeous, soulful country sound joins van de Poel’s grainy croon in Once In A Blue Moon. Pastiches are lightly worn and loving. Swain could retire on its great title, instead assembling a grab-bag of knowingly second-hand phrases – ‘son of a preacher man’, ‘who was fooling who?’ – and smothering them in stampeding, creamy gospel harmonies.
Similarly, Sometimes is an initially unimpressive song absorbed by its arrangement’s sultry atmosphere, and a Hammond solo’s exploratory, languid climb.
In a new development, DeWolff think nothing of engaging with contemporary ills. Big Talk is distinguished not just by its whiplash guitars and chain-rattle, echo-chamber cymbals, but its intended dismissal of anti-refugee Dutch extremist Geert Wilders. Their aim is more dead-eye explicit on Deceit & Woo. ‘He’s the captain of a sinking ship,’ van de Poel warns, ‘the hand at the end of a cracking whip… he’s going to grab you by the pussy if you don’t watch out.’
Typically for this bunch, Trump is targeted as much as anything for being innately anti-blues. This revelation is followed by a hushed beauty of a guitar solo, cut by van de Poel muttering, ‘Sock it to me.’ DeWolff rock back in again, then dismiss all thought of pestilent politicians with a coda that builds like commandos creeping across moonlit rocks, before a final all-out assault of cleansing, feedbacking noise. Whatever your politics, it’s fucking great.
They close with the heartfelt Outta Step & Ill At Ease. DeWolff channel The Band as van de Poel takes on Levon Helm’s vocal spirit, sighing: ‘And I can’t even pour myself a glass of wine.’ His guitar’s stoically defiant attitude ploughs on anyway, the Dutch flatlands becoming Woodstock in his head.