So did anyone know that there was another Wolfmother album released between this one and Cosmic Egg? Apparently so, but 2014’s New Crown ultimately suffered from a combination of weak promotion and the fact that many believed the band to have dissolved after the release of frontman Andrew Stockdale’s solo album. At least with fourth full-length Victorious, the Aussie trio have grasped the idea that actual promotion gets you some distance. Still, that doesn’t manage to elevate this album above what it actually is – a bloated, self-important and just plain boring attempt at retro-rock.
Whereas many of these revival rock bands take the main components of their source material and at least try to give them a more contemporary touch, Victorious sees Wolfmother go the whole hog in an attempt of emulating the ’70s pretty much note for note. Thing is though, it sounds so watered down that it ends up as the most bland, insipid form of a genre not exactly known for its originality. The thud of Baroness feels a lot more percussive than it should or have any right to, while City Lights‘ guitars are pretty much like paper compared to how they should be. Throughout, Wolfmother fit so little substance into this album compared to their peers, leading to an album that finds it difficult to fully get by on anything. The riffs have so little meat on them, the majority of the tracks are a lukewarm mid-tempo at best, and Andrew Stockdale’s vocals (a clean, intelligible Ozzy Osbourne isn’t too far off) majorly grate in how weedy they are, especially in the meandering extended syllables that come in on Eye Of The Beholder.
At its best, Victorious is competent enough to dish out some tolerable songs, like the psychedelica-flavoured title track, or in the fuzzy grooves of Gypsy Caravan. These aren’t great songs by any means, but they’re at least enough to show that Wolfmother have enough in their locker to take their influences and run with them, rather than make a half-hearted copy-and-paste job. Because, in reality, that’s what much of Victorious is – it doesn’t even feel as though the band themselves are bothered with the outcome, given the listless nature of the majority.
Still, as plain and devoid of any notable features that these songs are, they aren’t necessarily awful; there’s still a kernel of decency (albeit a tiny one) present. But it’s worth bringing up Pretty Peggy at this point, a song that is just horrible. It’s a largely acoustic-led ballad with a hook that is more or less wholly lifted from The Lumineers’ Ho Hey, with some of the most wet, needlessly sugary instrumental work imaginable for a hard rock band, coupled with some absolutely dire lyrics (“Roses are red, violets are blue / I would take them all and give them to you” – really?). It’s such a low point that it makes the rest of the album seem way more tolerable by comparison.
But of course, looking at the bigger picture makes it clear that there’s very little about Victorious that is tolerable. It’s an album comprised of ten pale imitations of classic rock bands that are already aped for all they’re worth far too much, but hardly ever in a manner as disappointing as this. Even for classic rock fans, there’s really no reason to invest in this album – everything Wolfmother do here has been done hundreds of times before, and a lot better as well.
For fans of: Led Zeppelin, Rival Sons, Scorpion Child
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Victorious’ by Wolfmother is out now on Universal.