In Review: Wolf People’s “Ruins”
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