A noisier Belle & Sebastian? A softer Suede? Wolventrix remind me of about 20 different bands and, at the same time, they’re unlike all of them. Tom Walkden probably does convincing Brett Anderson impressions in his spare time, but they’re definitely their own band, with their own complicated, ever-changing sound. And albums which keep you guessing are often the best.
There are a few grand romantic gestures such as ‘Christmas Relevations’ and ‘Electrical Storm’, with Walkden harnessing the vulnerability in his voice to brilliant effect. There are violins, regret and melancholy in bucketloads, but they escape the emo tag, largely because these are intelligent love songs. The chorus of ‘Electrical Storm’ provides a great example: ‘You, just fingertips in the dark/Gently touching the palm of my hand/Yes, it’s something far too little to act upon/But it’s ours until the dawn’.
Not a love song per se, unless he falls in love very bloody easily, but it’s pretty effective in taking you back to your own awkward, ambiguous encounters. And they do so without making you want to reach for the sick bag.
The album is even cynical in parts. “Sham White Wedding” is the obvious example, and “Nostalgia” even talks of ‘Romantic clichés’ crumbling. It’s a song concerned with throwing off rose-tinted visions of past love affairs: “So I’ve been looking with increasing dismay/At what I’ve always thought were halcyon days/Yeah, nostalgia’s been tellin’ me lies”.
Wolventrix also exhibit a playful side every now and again, and nowhere more so than on the surreal ‘Brave Marine Explorer’. There are strong echoes of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and even The Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’, chalking up yet more artists on their sound-a-like list.
Listening to this song is definitely like stepping through a time warp – but the good kind, not the kind that inspired a shit song and dance for a musical…My favourite line from it is: ‘I kicked my flippers off to make my movements more free/And started thinking that the speedos were a little OTT’. Just how many songs have you heard this year mention speedos? They don’t even feature in Muse’s unforgivable Olympic song.
The last track on the album ‘Yaced Fo Sgniws’ (or ‘Wings Of Decay’ the right way round) is a bit leftfield, to say the least – it plays in reverse. Whether this is to reward those who buy vinyl (and actually listen to LPs rather than just display them as a hipster accessory) I don’t know, but I’d be surprised if it revealed any backmasked satanic verses or anything like that.
So er…yeah, they’re an odd bunch, but I quite like them. They’ve got something slightly different to say and I look forward to hearing more.