Where Eagles Have Been
Joker & the Thief
Wolfmother formed in Sydney in 2000 and, for several years, remained virtually unknown outside of their local circuit. But that all changed with the Australian release of their self-titled debut in October, 2005.
Following the release of Wolfmother, the trio – Andrew Stockdale (guitar, vocals), Chris Ross (bass, keyboard) and Myles Heskett (drums) – became a household name. The singles Woman and Joker & The Thief permeated the decade’s musical landscape, whilst the record as whole – alongside albums like Songs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age, Black Holes & Revelations by Muse, and Elephant by The White Stripes – helped pull hard-hitting, psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll into the 21st century.
The question is, how did a bar band from Australia become one of the most talked about acts in the world, seemingly overnight?
“We’d been touring all over the place,” says Stockdale. “We didn’t sit on our arses and pat ourselves on the back being happy with just playing Australia. From the very start, we were out there playing everywhere and literally losing money, racking up debt as we went.”
Their dogged perseverance paid off, and after four years of touring the country’s pubs and clubs the band were signed by Australian record label Modular Recordings, who released their self-titled EP in 2004. The record did reasonably well for an unknown act, reaching number 35 in the ARIA Singles Charts, and after six months of additional touring the group began work on their first full-length effort.
Recorded in Los Angeles with producer Dave Sardy (Oasis, Marilyn Manson), their eponymous debut came out in Australia on October 31, 2005, and was released internationally via Interscope Records the following year.
Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute.
Other albums released in October 2005
- Exodus - Shovel Headed Kill Machine
- My Morning Jacket - Z
- The Reverend Horton Heat - We Three Kings
- Soulfly - Dark Ages
- Roadrunner United - The All-Star Sessions
- Jackson Browne - Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1
- Paul Weller - As Is Now
- Sevendust - Next Sevendust
- Susan Tedeschi - Hope and Desire
- Chris Rea - Blue Guitars
- Primal Fear - Seven Seals
- Sunn O))) - Black One
- Brian Wilson - What I Really Want for Christmas
- Fireball Ministry - Their Rock Is Not Our Rock
- Rod Stewart - Thanks for the Memory: The Great American Songbook, Volume IV
- Deep Purple - Rapture of the Deep
- Aerosmith - Rockin' the Joint
- Buckethead & Friends - Enter the Chicken
- Blink-182 - Greatest Hits
- Helloween - Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy
- Santana - All That I Am
- TNT - All the Way to the Sun
- Nickelback - All The Right Reasons
What they said...
"On Witchcraft, the band evokes Jethro Tull with a Canterbury flute solo that ought to sound forced or hokey, but context is everything, and set against Wolfmother's wallop, it's a natural fit. Of course, not all their risks return rewards as worthwhile: The obnoxious three-and-a-half-minute garage-punk blast Apple Tree features the album's most uninspired songwriting and laziest delivery." (Pitchfork)
"Maybe Wolfmother have created an album which will serve as an ideal entry point to a different generation of music. Maybe they are merely playing a kind of music that, in this beautiful world of irony and self-flagellation, is deemed "cool". Maybe they've just made a record with staggeringly backward-looking artwork with a whole bunch of even more backward songs to put inside." (Drowned In Sound)
"All in all, Wolfmother won't win any prizes for originality, but it certainly makes a change from the many Jam and Clash soundalikes clogging up every last recess and if it turns people onto the aural delights of prime time Sabbath, Rush and Zeppelin, then its surely a job well done." (Contact Music)
What you said...
Andrew Stockdale’s sonic love letter to the late 60s is intense. He blends the sounds of Led Zep, Sabbath & even Uriah Heep while layering on a dose of The White Stripes' retro modern rawness, but with all the dials set to 11.
The sound is dominated by a wall of fuzzy guitar and Stockdale’s strained falsetto set against a pounding drum and organ rhythm, and some great bass runs.
After the opening assault (including White Unicorn, which is one of the standout tracks), Apple Tree is a frenetic, stripped-back slice of White Stripes alt-blues, and that more retro-modern sound continues on Joker And The Thief.
The rest of the album is much the same, blending 60s' homage with the scratchy homespun guitar sounds of the alt-blues fad of the early to mid 2000s. There are moments that I enjoy and bits that don’t work so well. It’s not all 60s pastiche. Withcraft sounds like Ocean Colour Scene’s Riverboat Song with added flute.
As with most albums after 1990, it would probably be easier to digest if it was 10 minutes shorter. Indeed, the last four tracks (Witchcraft, Tales, Love Train and Vagabond) would have made a coherent EP, more like the modern scratchy alt-rock blues of The Raconteurs .
It’s certainly not a bad album, but it is exhausting, and is at its best when Stockdale dials back for a minute (as on Where Eagles have Been) and mixes some shade in with the bludgeoning intensity. That said, the album production falls victim to the so-called ‘loudness wars’ that were in full flight in the mid-2000s; so while there are quieter and louder sections in the composition, even those ‘quieter’ moments feel like a coiled spring waiting to go full-on loud.
While they are ‘ok’, I don’t love Stockdale’s vocals. He has a tendency to wail rather than sing, and where the likes of Ozzy, Robert Plant et al imbued that with an abundance of character, Stockdale doesn’t have the same presence.
The other, perhaps more damning indictment of a rock album that apes Zep and Sabbath, is the lack of any really memorable riffs. It makes up for much of that with energy and intensity, and when the Hammond organs kick in sounding like I imagine an early Uriah Heep would have if they were cranked up on amphetamines
Despite these misgivings, most of the tracks are on my rock playlists and I enjoy them when they pop up at random, but I never sit down and listen to the album end to end. So, for me Wolfmother are great in small doses, but as an album it conspires to be less than the sum of its parts. 7/10.
Great record, great live band. For all the folks who say there’s no good music anymore here’s my answer to you. This could easily have come out in 1975 and had great success. It’s only topped by live performances. Solid 9.
This was released at the height of the "rock is dead" (which it certainly wasn't, of course) noughties, and the 'retro with a modern twist' vibe (somewhat like Greta Van Fleet in recent years) was very welcome indeed.
First three tracks Colossal, Woman and White Unicorn set things up very nicely. My personal favourites Mind's Eye and Joker And The Thief give some mid-album punch, but from there it gets a little samey. Not bad, but not brilliant either. Listening now, the production lacks a little subtlety. Again, not bad, but there are times where a surer hand production-wise would have been a benefit (Mind's Eye being the prime example to my ears)
If I was scoring this in 2005 I'd have probably given it a 9. Now, I'd give it a solid 7.5.
After hearing Andrew Stockdale sing on By the Sword from Slash’s mostly brilliant guest-filled solo album, I was fairly interested to hear the self-titled Wolfmother debut. For some reason I never did until it popped up as this week’s album.
It didn’t begin well. Stockdale’s dissonant scream and the band’s garage sound that kicked off album opener Dimension quickly made me wonder if I was going to make it very far into the record. My feeling changed before the song was over as the half-time section was much more enjoyable and made me wish the whole tune was along these lines.
The Dimension-al roller coaster ride summed up the entire release for me. White Unicorn was decent; Woman absolutely rocked until the sonic onslaught halfway through. Two tracks later, Apple Tree was just rotten: all noise and no melody makes Brian a grumpy boy. At least Joker And The Thief provided a nice recovery.
There are many cool sounding moments on Wolfmother, and as I listened I got the feeling it could grow on me with repeated listens. But 13 (to my ears) uneven tracks and an overabundance of fuzz made me rank the album a six out of ten.
Bought this album the week it came out on the strength of Joker and the press they were getting. Returned it to the shop three days later and swapped it for something else. Just not for me I’m afraid.
I remember 16-year-old me listening to Kingdom Come circa 1990: I did not know Led Zeppelin nor I had any intention of listening to their “old” music. So Kingdom Come at the time sounded fresh and electrifying to me, and that was enough. Today I look at those first two albums with very different eyes, and although I am still endeared to them and still enjoy them, I would not classify them as bona fide classic rock.
Wolfmother sounds a lot like “Kingdom Come for the noughties” in that it shares the same intent: updating the sound of Led Zeppelin and early 70s hard rock to contemporary sensibilities. It works, in fact it works slightly too well for comfort. Because while I am enthralled by songs like Apple Tree or Tales my mind keeps working out all the references – a bit of Zeppelin here, some sprinkles of Uriah Heep there and a pinch of Black Sabbath for good measure. Has rock really not expressed anything new since the early seventies? Why do I like it so much then?
In recent years a lot of “sonic cosplay” has emerged from the rehearsal basements of the world. We have a New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal for instance, where countless bands of teenagers recreate the sound of the Midlands in the early 80s better than the veterans who actually were there. Like Wolfmother, it works rather too well to be dismissed but it makes me a bit uncomfortable.
In conclusion: Wolfmother is a very enjoyable album, it contains 54 minutes of music that fly away in a frenzy of headbanging and air guitar. It’s full of references to early 70s hard rock and it sounds properly sexy. Hopefully it will make a few teenagers grow to love the originals, but on its own it cannot receive praise beyond the objective craft in reproducing other people’s greatness. I will score it 7 out of 10.
This is more like it, something to investigate. Been aware of Wolfmother a long time, only now checking them out. Pleased that I have.
A little Mars Volta, Datsuns, late 60's early 70's influence, but sounding contemporary. What's not to like?
Every decade goes through what the great music and pop culture writer, Chuck Klosterman, would call a "Zeppelin phase": The need for wailing vocals, primordial guitar riffs, Götterdämmerung drums.
I remember Wolfmother being part of a greater "rock is back" movement in the mid-aughts that also included popular bands like the Darkness and White Stripes, as well as bands that quickly faded into obscurity, like the Living Things and Priestess.
Wolfmother, the album, is a fuzz-filled and fun-fuelled trip (multiple meanings apply) back to the glory days of stadium rock, drum risers, and riffs stacked on riffs stacked on more riffs. For me, the album is front-loaded with the most immediate satisfaction in songs like Woman, White Unicorn, and Joker And The Thief. But further listens reveal the charms of backburners like ballad-to-rocker Mind's Eye, the thundering Pyramid, barreling yet flute-soloed Witchcraft, and closing thumper Vagabond.
You can pretty much draw a line from Wolfmother and company back to the Soundgardens and Mother Love Bones of the '90s and further back to the Fastways and Great Whites of the '80s, further back even to Heart's Barracuda, in 1977. Then push the time machine forward again to the twenty-teens to pick up Greta Van Fleet and Rival Sons. Individual sounds and styles may vary but the Zep worship remains the same. Makes me excited for what the 2020s hold.
Thank you for introducing me to that album. I didn't know, not had even heard of the band. Shame on me.
The music is wild mix of influences from rock bands of the 60s and 70s, beginning with Led Zep and Black Sabbath combined with Uriah Heep, the Stones, Iron Butterfly, Jethro Tull and especially the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
If you have a three man band, all musicians should be skilled above average, and the drums and bass have a bigger influence. Both the bass player and the drummer did a tremendous job, especially the bass player.
The songs are all strong, mainly on the same high level. To pick out some songs is therefore hard. I would choose Where Eagles Have Been, Pyramid and Tales. Great album. 8/10.
First time I heard from this band. Now I'm listening to the album, and it has a very pleasant music style. It reminds me of something, not sure what exactly... Rival Sons or Greta Van Fleet or something like that...
Awesome album, never gets old, they never topped it though. Cosmic Egg came close, but this is the definitive Wolf album.
Had a listen to it today after a break of nearly eight years. That it sounded so fresh but so timeless was a relief, as it meant I wasn't wrong about it first time around.
I was pleasantly surprised by Wolfmother in more ways than I anticipated. For one, I actually knew a few of these songs without ever knowing the artist. I can't remember where I first heard Woman (I think it was on a video game), but hearing it again was nice. Vagabond is one I'm sure I've heard on a few commercials here and there – a very solid closer that adds a softer touch to the album.
As for the others, they're mostly all great. Mind's Eye has some wicked keyboard and organ action as the driving force, and Witchcraft tips it cap to Jethro Tull by proving the flute can still be cool. A good choice for the week. 7.5/10.
As a proud Aussie I love this album. The only downside is how the hell do you top a debut like this? I don’t think there's a bad track on here. Mind’s Eye is one that I don’t think gets enough credit.
One of the top five albums released since 2000. So great. First 10 seconds of the album and I was like, “holy crap this is what I need!”
Still love this one. Channeling the spirit of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. What’s not to like?
Final Score: 7.21⁄10 (114 votes cast, with a total score of 821)
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