WOLF! – 1-800-WOLF! – Royal Potato Family

Canis lupus rockus.

WOLF! – 1-800-WOLF! [TrackList follows] – Royal Potato Family 020286222316, 35:14 [10/14/16] *****:

(Scott Metzger – guitar; Taylor Floreth – drums, percussion; Jon Shaw – bass, keys)

The wolf is a potent symbol. It’s no wonder the wolf has been used as a musical name by blues shouter Howlin’ Wolf; hard rockers Wolfmother; indie popsters Wolfie; and famed radio DJ Wolfman Jack. There’s something primal, forceful and compelling about the connotations of the wolf (or canis lupus). The latest to use the wolf in their name is Brooklyn instrumental rock trio, WOLF! [they prefer all caps and the exclamation point]. Guitarist Scott Metzger, bassist Jon Shaw and drummer Taylor Floreth bring back the glory of ‘60s instrumental garage-rock, akin to Davie Allan and the Arrows, Link Wray or a retrofied Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet.

WOLF! is a threesome which maintains a lean design, are to the point and are on target on their sophomore album, 1-800-WOLF! You won’t find screaming solos, over-amped power chords or other over-the-top audio shearing. This brief CD—13 originals penned by the trio, all snugly fitting within 35 minutes—sustains a spare sound which emphasizes texture, melody and simplicity. Much of the material echoes the music which is a probable stimulus for the group: there’s a sense of nostalgia or history replete throughout. For example, there’s a whiff of surf music on the wistful “Bohemian Grove,” where Metzger replicates the ringing guitar style of the Ventures or the Shadows. There’s a bit of Parisian gypsy swing on the swaying “Oaxaca Ox” (seemingly titled after the southern Mexican state). Mexican influence can also be heard on “Tomatillo Verde,” inspired by a popular Mexican green sauce. “Tomatillo Verde” aptly has a spicy flavor, with a hint of south-of-the-border tang. The biting “Furry Freedom” has a Dick Dale/Davie Allan blend, readymade for some hard-noirish film soundtrack. Here, Metzger applies some rougher and grittier guitar lines, while the rhythm section layers up a bumpish beat. Another, similar cut is the cinematically-inclined “You Are No Longer My Friend, My Friend,” which has a certain Quentin Tarantino disposition. Metzger explains he wrote this after watching an old kung-fu movie entitled Lady Snowblood (which ironically was a key impetus for Tarantino’s Kill Bill motion picture project).

The definitive garage rocker is the soulful opener, “Pork ‘N Slaw,” which evokes something which a Memphis bar band circa 1966 might have hammered out to a sweaty night of cheap beer and pool table gamesmanship. During another formidable piece, “Tomahawk Chop,” Metzger provides heavy fuzz on his unembellished guitar lines, delivering a swampy sensibility. The nearest the three get to jazz is the slow shuffle which permeates the creamy “Denim Love Affair,” which glistens with Floreth’s supple cymbals, Shaw’s methodical bass and Metzger’s almost-frugal solo spotlight. During “Denim Love Affair,” the band deliberately left in room ambiance and speaker hum to conjure a live-in-the-studio quality. WOLF! closes with the melodic, steady groove of “All Dressed Up (Nowhere to Go),” with Shaw’s underlying organ supplying a light, mid-sixties vibe, while Metzger’s straightforward and ringing guitar upholds a late ‘60s mood. WOLF! isn’t out to prove themselves the flashiest instrumentalists in the music universe, they’re all about keeping things clear-cut, uncomplicated, and offering a catchy, less-is-more approach.

TrackList: Pork ‘N Slaw; Tomahawk Chop; You Are No Longer My Friend, My Friend; Furry Freedom; Whiskey Mister; Tomatillo Verde; Slow Stuff; Bohemian Grove; Oaxaca Ox; Get in the Van; Denim Love Affair; Mr. Majestique; All Dressed Up (Nowhere to Go)

—Doug Simpson

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