Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wounded Lion: Wounded Lion

Wounded Lion
Wounded Lion
Rating: 2.5/5.0
Label: In the Red

read more at spectrum culture (spectrumculture.com)

I'll say this much for Wounded Lion: a garage-pop band do could far worse on its debut album than what the California quintet manages here. And indeed countless groups have, following a very simple formula to create a cover-your-ears-awful first effort: mix the tortured, modern poetry-fed, Moz-cribbing musings of twentysomething males with a handful of untouchable iconic influences mimicked to the point of silver-tongued thievery, and - poof - a crappy album destined for the bargain bin is born. For the most part, Wounded Lion steers clear of these pitfalls on this self-titled release, 12 songs wrapped in 30 brisk minutes of uncluttered and gimmick-free rock. There is already a modest buzz around the band across the internet - primarily due to a few singles and a live show that some bloggers have described in Bangs-worthy, gushing terms - and this record should keep that momentum going, however slightly.

For better or worse, much of Wounded Lion lends itself to an intense game of Which Bands Do These Songs Remind You Of? The group claims the Cramps, the Monks, the Move and the Kinks as inspirations, while press material cites the Clean, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Velvet Underground - of course, as by now even granny's church choir would cop to lifting from that band - as influences. It's easy to see why: songs like "Hunan Province" and "Creatures in the Cave" do in fact unfold like a pretty clever hybrid of those bands' best moments. Other songs feel instantly familiar without feeling like derivative theft; maybe it's an enormous coincidence, but Wounded Lion appears to cozily stand on the shoulders of giants. Mostly it works though: the first few lines of "Carol Cloud" approximate Flip Your Wig/New Day Rising-era Hüsker Dü, the vocals on "Black Sox" - barked out mostly in French - sound a lot like Pere Ubu frontman David Thomas and opening track "Hungry?" features a pair of vocalists who combine Thomas' bellow with David Byrne's vocal twitches.

What saves these songs from becoming little more than a group of guys pissing on hallowed ground is how well they alternate between seriousness and silliness. There is a menacing vagueness to "Hungry?" - the line "I think it's hungry" is repeated but we never find out what "it" is - while the primitive stomp and distortion of "Creatures in the Cave" accentuate a great line like "I'm in the cave/ With broken dreams." But mostly Wounded Lion is a fun listen whose lightheartedness is obvious, whether it's in the exaggerated country parody of "Crünchy Stars," the insidiously catchy wordplay of "Belt of Orion," the Coors Light product placement of "Silver Bullet" or the Star Wars nerd-out of "Degobah System," which blends a melody as hummable as any pop tune with some practical world advice for travelers in a galaxy far, far away: "If you're going to the Degobah system/ Get ready for some wild shit."

This reliance on fairly-elementary comedy does sometimes make Wounded Lion's tracks feel like novelty songs, and with its short running time, there's very little room for such filler. Still, there's enough variety here to suggest the band knows the difference between homage and blatant imitation and, even better, how to (almost) strike the right balance between oblique lyricism and a sense of humor numerous indie bands would be well-served to emulate.

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