Tall Dark Hill
By: Eric Greenwood
Wolfie bounces through its frivolous pop with three chords and an endless supply of second-hand hooks. Guitarist Joe Ziemba sounds like your typical early-90's indie rock nerd, gurgling the snot between his forced falsetto and a bratty affectation. Luckily, he has Amanda Lyons' virginal voice to pick up the slack, but she can only do so much with his liquid sweetener songs. Granted, Ziemba writes all the songs, so he's inclined to want to sing them. But for the good of the band (and the listener) he should seriously consider passing the microphone more often, if not for good
Power pop, new wave, 60's bubblegum- it's all regurgitated here for your lighthearted entertainment. With vastly improved production, Wolfie moves away from the garage-band noise emitted on earlier albums (Where's Wolfie? and Awful Mess Mystery) in favor of a slicker and sleeker approach. Still, there's still an inherently underdog spirit to the amateurish musicianship. Lyrically, Ziemba runs against the grain of his indie pop and, forgive me, "twee" peers, attempting silly things like an emotional connection. Nobody wants a dose of reality with his pixie stix. This music is supposed to be mindless fun.
The vocal trade-offs between Ziemba and Lyons are too cutesy and not particularly memorable, which is surprising since, ostensibly, Wolfie's bread and butter is its penchant for melodies. Maybe, it's because the melodies feel so used. "What I Want From The World" is one of the few songs where the vocal combination half-works, but Ziemba's voice is borderline intolerable. By contrast, Lyons' voice seems to soar over fuzzy guitar pop like "Waiting For The Night To End" and the Juliana Hatfield-esque "Crab And The Beach." Her girlish voice radiates innocence much like Hatfield's did before she hooked up with Evan Dando.
Ziemba's voice isn't the only thing to be wary of. He can suck the life out of an otherwise rocking riff under the guise of "fun" like it's nobody's business. Take the ill-advised fusion of mock-Led Zeppelin guitar riffs and organ-drenched, soda fountain pop in "You Are A Woman" for example. It sounds just as awkward as it looks- a mish-mash of parts thrown together without regard for either melody or coherence. And closing this brief yet strangely forgettable collection is an eight-minute sleeper called "Happy State Of Mr. Bubbins." Just because the lengths of your songs have expanded does not necessarily mean that the quality of your songwriting has improved. Wolfie can't seem to find any tunes despite its melodies, but it's not for lack of trying.