I still remember the first time Dave Carnevale played Wolfmother for me. Before most people in America had heard of the band, he had gotten his hands on an Australian copy of their first album. I don’t remember how much time passed between his first mention of the band and when I actually heard them, but it was enough time for Dave to drive the point home that I needed to hear them. This was the return of real hard rock. This was the new Sabbath. Dave does not throw these kinds of compliments around lightly, and while our musical tastes align far more often than not (somewhat creepily at times*), I was skeptical. Nothing sounds like that anymore.
I should have never doubted him.
Before the vocals of Andrew Stockdale began, my jaw had already dropped. This wasn’t just new Black Sabbath, this was as if Wolfmother had booked studio time right after Sabbath had laid down “War Pigs.” If you had told me at that moment that Wolfmother wasn’t a new band, but rather an early-70′s band that recorded an album which was lost and only recently discovered, I would have believed you. Yes, the landscape was Colossal, but so was the sound. And the rest of the album didn’t disappoint. Hooks stacked on top of riffs on top of hooks. Bass and drums that cracked spines while Stockdale sang in the only register rock singers were allowed to have in 1971.
More than the songs, the album was filled with promise. This really could be the return of real hard rock. This was heavy metal in the mold of Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, not the remnants of nu-metal which had gone from pop-novelty to cultural pariah in just a few short years. This could change the face of modern rock radio, banishing the Nickelbacks and the Creeds from the airwaves and replacing them with Wolfmother and the bands that would follow in their footsteps.
As you probably know, none of that happened. While their debut was massively successful, the band took four years to release a lukewarm follow-up, and going through enough turmoil in the process to leave Stockdale as the only original member. The potential of that first album exists only in itself.
I could go on about how disappointing I find all of this. How angry I get at Stockdale, someone whose supposedly egomaniacal tendencies have pushed other musicians away from himself and Wolfmother, undermining what could have been. And it would all be true, but that wouldn’t be fair to the music. To this day, listening to this song still gives me the same feeling I had when Dave played it for me.
*Over the many years Dave and I have been friends, there have been times that we will talk about what we are listening to lately, only to discover that we have been listening to the same artists or albums as each other without any way of knowing this information. This has happened more times than I can count.
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