In Re­view: Wolf Peo­ple’s “Ru­ins”

Cecil Whig - - ACCENT - By JOE ANTOSHAK

jan­toshak@ches­pub.com

It’s hard to get a good read on the sin­cer­ity of Wolf Peo­ple, the English rock band that’s made a small name for it­self with genre-com­pli­cat­ing sounds and themes. At times on their new al­bum “Ru­ins” (out Nov. 11, Jag­jaguwar), they sound pretty close to pro­gres­sive rock. At oth­ers, they sound more like wood­land folk en­thu­si­asts.

This am­bi­gu­ity builds to an in­ter­est­ing piece of art, but a some­what lop­sided, not to mention con­fus­ing one.

The cur­rent piec­ing of Wolf Peo­ple took root in 2007, and the band has re­leased two stu­dio ful­l­lengths — “Steeple” in 2010 and “Fain” in 2013. In 2010, the band also re­leased a col­lec­tion of ear­lier record­ings in “Tid­ings.” The four­some has since gar­nered luke­warm at­ten­tion from in­die mu­sic out­lets like Pitch­fork and has the cu­ri­ous dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the only Jag­jaguwar act (the la­bel boasts Bon Iver, Un­known Mor­tal Or­ches­tra and Di­nosaur Jr., among oth­ers) based in the United King­dom.

“Ru­ins” has some very strong mo­ments on it, namely “Night Witch,” a song that had its mu­sic video re­leased on Hal­loween, and the “King­fisher” series (there are two reprises af­ter the ini­tial seven-minute song). From a mu­si­cal, pro­duc­tion value stand­point, the al­bum is sat­is­fy­ing through­out. There’s not a sin­gle weak in­stru­ment. But the band has re­gret­tably taken some steps away from its ear­lier psy­che­delic touch, and the song­writ­ing leaves some­thing to be de­sired.

The most preva­lent theme on the al­bum comes across as one ripped from some mid­dle-A.D. pa­gan scrip­ture. “[‘Ru­ins’ is] not a con­cept al­bum, but a lot of the songs con­sider what the world might be like with­out hu­mans,” says singer and gui­tarist Jack Sharp, ac­cord­ing to the band’s on­line bi­og­ra­phy (writ­ten by English au­thor Ben My­ers, in­ter­est­ingly enough). Cue Spinal Tap’s “Stone­henge.”

That’s the thing about this band. Com­bined with its self-pro­mo­tion, its mu­sic seems to be os­cil­lat­ing con­stantly be­tween play­ful and down­right sin­cere, but in a way that’s more about obli­ga­tion than in­tent. That jolly band bio men­tioned above does more to ob­fus­cate than any­thing else. What are they writ­ing about? What are they try­ing to ex­press?

With a group as mu­si­cally ca­pa­ble as Wolf Peo­ple, you have to think a ca­reerdefin­ing al­bum is lurk­ing some­where in the not-sodis­tant fu­ture. But “Ru­ins” is not it.

Verdict: 3 out of 5

PHOTOS COUR­TESY OF JAG­JAGUWAR

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