Bands with two drummers typically end up in one of two camps, the first being that of intense, pounding, Trail of Dead-like rock thunder, the second being superfluous Pavement-style stage props. Having never seen Wolf & Cub live, I can’t actually comment on their presence as such, but their sound falls definitely in the former camp. The band claims to have intended for the latter, however, initially adding a second percussionist as a Bez-like (Happy Mondays) maraca shaker and producer of good times, though ultimately they ended up with two dudes furiously hammering away at their trap sets. The Adelaide, Australia group is nothing if not a pummeling, intense and highly percussive maelstrom, barreling forward with maximum intensity. Damn right you hear those drums…even if you can’t easily pick both sets out.
Ah, but Wolf & Cub are still like most rock bands, in that guitar and vocals are still front and center, which is by no means a bad thing. The intense thwack of Adam Edwards and Joel Carey beefs up the group’s sound considerably, laying a solid and fearsome foundation for Thomas Mayhew’s hard grooving bass and Joel Byrne’s psychedelic guitar freakouts. Heavy emphasis on rhythm though there may be, Wolf & Cub deals in melody. The opening title track settles into a repetitive groove, Byrne chanting “how does it feel” at the start of each verse. His guitar eventually squalls out of control in psych solo mode, but the band continues with that solid groove all the same. They pull a similar trick with “This Mess,” a funkier, slightly more restrained track that transitions into krautrock-like instrumental “Rozalia Bizarre.”
Wolf & Cub emit a different sort of psychedelia on “Hammond,” that being the mellow mid-period Pink Floyd-ian kind. It’s a pleasant and dreamy diversion, but one that fades quickly, the shuffling rocker “March Of Clouds” soon taking over with a “Rock `n’ Roll Part 2” rhythm and Big Muffs surging to oblivion. “Kingdom” mellows out again, as electronic sitar-like buzzing hot boxes the bass-heavy atmosphere. Byrne’s fading in and out vocals only add to the druggy haze, but this track is enjoyable in unaltered states—I can attest to that. It doesn’t rock out like the catchy riff-fest of “Seeds of Doubt” or re-recorded single “Steal Their Gold,” which not only rocks harder than any track, in addition to being one heavy-ass dance party, but those drummers are just that much more noticeable here.
Drums are most certainly an integral part of Vessels, whether or not the individual tracks are easily discernable. But then again, nobody listens to records to pick out each part, unless you’re transcribing tablature, in which case you probably never noticed the drums to begin with. On the whole, this is an album of dense sonic textures and just plain rocking out. If that requires a few more skins taking a beating, count me in.
Serena-Maneesh – Serena-Maneesh
Girls Against Boys – Cruise Yourself
Primal Scream – Vanishing Point
MP3: “Steal Their Gold”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.