It has been less than a year since Britain’s fastest rising folk-punk troubadour released his last album, but Laurence Crow (aka Wolfe Sunday) has already been hard at work writing new material for a follow up in the interim. From the opening chords of “Song for You”, the sound is more mature, and noticeably also considerably more mainstream pop, than previous releases have been. The vocals are delivered with more confidence, and the full-band backing gives the music a fuller sound, though perhaps at the cost of the more authentic DIY sound we have historically seen from Wolfe Sunday.
Influences from the writer’s self-confessed punk rock idols can be heard clearly in “Mixtape”, which has all the makings of an underground rock hit, before the lead single, “Damage Control” kicks in with its catchy Green Day-esque chorus that makes the song sound as if it is being performed at the crazy house party being detailed in the lyrics. It is easily the go-to song on the album so far; if you wanted to show someone what it is that Wolfe Sunday does, this would certainly be the track one should leap to immediately. The hectic party sound continues with the go-lucky “I Spend More Time At Service Stations Than On Stage”, though don’t be fooled, there is definitely a poignant element of philosophical self-evaluation going on behind all the singing about bars.
Despite its riff-driven sound, or perhaps in complement of it, “The Barstool Brawler’s Son” is perhaps the least punky song so far, as we move towards the midway point. It is the longest song on the album so far, with most of the others barely passing the two-and-a-half minute mark, and would not sound out of place being played at a truckers stop in Midwestern America. Interestingly, it also manages to avoid sounding clichéd and banal.
An acapella punk song is ambitious, but Wolfe Sunday manages to pull it off with “Let’s Start A Fire”. It is a meagre forty-second interval, but it definitely works. The one gripe that I have about it though is that there is not enough of a gap between the songs before and after it; it therefore sounds a bit sudden, and it leaves the listener without much time to reflect as “Making Memories” kicks in with a sound similar to what we have heard earlier on. The sound is still solid, and delivered well, but by this point it would be good to hear little bit more variation – even if it is primarily a punk album.
Thankfully, this respite is provided towards the end of the album by the slightly lighter sound of “Everything We Lost”, and then the bizarre interlude of “Shoes”, a quick thirty second recording informing us of the dangers of retrieving cola bottles from other people’s locked cars. “Living Rooms Aren’t For Living in Anyway” is another very punky track, clocking in at less than a minute long, that throws us back to some of Wolfe Sunday’s earlier work, before the very intriguing closer kicks in, “English Water”. Alongside “Damage Control”, this is probably my favourite track on the album; it sounds quite different from anything else we have heard.
As a development in his sound, Wolfe Sunday’s self-titled release is definitely more evolved than previous things we have heard. The album has all the makings of a modern underground classic; some elements do at times feel slightly repetitive, however. Yet at the same time, it is predominantly a gutsy and, at times, downright courageous release; even if it is only a mere 35 minutes long. The songwriting is certainly in the old Wolfe Sunday style though, and even if the full band sound does still sound like it is in its experimental phase, it will be interesting to see what comes next.