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  • Fain
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4.2 out of 5 stars
23
Fain
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 14 June 2013
The weather changes quickly on the dales and moorland of North Yorkshire (I know I have walked them many times), where the band known as Wolf People set up to record their second album proper, "Fain". One minute the sun is shining then suddenly the breeze picks up and the skies darken; the rain coming on. As one dead rock star famously intoned "weather changes moods" (K.Cobain, 1991).

The theme of change echoes throughout the fruits of their labour and the content of "Fain" shows a band making further progress from their mightily impressive debut, "Steeple". Wolf People move stealthily into darker territory on these outings, the music tauter and more oppressive at times than even in the heaviest moments of its predecessor. This, on the whole, is a very good thing.

"Empty Vessels" opens the record (and I hope you buy it on vinyl with free download - natch) with a snatch of chiming circular picking guitars (think the endtro of `Wheels of Confusion' by Sabbath and you wont go far wrong) and an (almost) jaunty tempo before slipping into gear changes that those who have heard "Silbury Sands" for instance, will recognise as a trademark of the Wolf People method (with lyrical references to the timelessness of being). A feedback guitar solo with a double speed (?), Oldlfield-esque guitar pattern hovering behind picks us up and moves us along toward the denouement. It's a great start.

Next up is one of the strongest songs on the record and elevated to lead single, "All Returns". This is expertly constructed fare, guitar lines slither out of the speakers with menace before a gunshot snare beat sends the artillery through with duelling guitars playing a spiralling celtic -tattoo of notes before subsiding again heralding the foreboding words and the arrival of a booming bass line that Jah Wobble would have been proud to play on Public Image Limited's amazing "Metal Box". Then be treated to a massively overamped guitar break that to these ears is hugely influenced by the sterling effort committed to tape 46 years ago on "Vacuum Cleaner" by no-hit wonders, Tintern Abbey before sinking back into the quicksand. Ace.

"When the Fire is Dead in the Grate" follows with its combination of no-nonsense block chords and feathery guitars underpinning delivery of the lyrics that capture the mood of the music perfectly. The arrival of spectral balalaika overdubs as the exiting guitars duel on ever higher plateuas, evoking nothing more than the clouds floating by is a lovely touch and reminds this reviewer of the kind of ethereal layering so well executed by antecedents Mighty Baby on their breatkaingly beautiful "Jug of Love" record. Praise indeed.

"Athol" follows and its spidery rhythms and Fairport/Comus meets Sabbath combinations don't quite work but are certainly not without merit. It just pales a little in the exalted company it keeps.

Side two for you vinyl heads opens with a beautiful circular riff. "Hesperus" with its knowing nods to the epic poem, the fate of HMS Hesperus during World War II, and its offering of hope in its referencing of St Stephen's Day (Boxing Day to you, probably) is delightful. To me this song encapsulates the record perfectly, it is the most `Fain' song to be found here. It effortlessly flips from contemplation to overdrive led execution over and over again. I would love to hear this song stretched further out with additional instrumentation at some point in the future, as it has untapped reserves of potential in it - it could be their "Dark Star" if they wanted it to be.

"Answer" shimmers and entrances, again showing a Mighty Baby influence to these ears, sweeping gently along - its monkish guitar strands swaying in the breeze. It's brevity and sun bleached springtime air perfectly setting up the scene for the dread filled, bilious tale to follow.

"Thief" is part of the tradition of cautionary tale telling that has existed for centuries. It is bleak and dark and the vocals are oddly dislocated in their delivery adding to the sense of unwellness that pervades. It of course also has some great guitar breaks in it and a fuzz bass line that would scare Geezer Butler. Heavy. The eerie air of what Jim Morrison once remarked was the "sense of not being quite at home". Quite.

"NRR" (create your own acronym solution - I will go with "North Riding Rock"!) closes the record in no nonsense all-out style with mentally overdriven and vertiginous guitar riffing, reminding you that whilst Wolf People can be wistful at times, it's their lupine jaws that bite deep and don't let go. It's Cream on bad acid, a kaleidoscope of black (and a very good thing too).

All in all a fine second record, the chops of the guitar players inch skywards, the beef some people have with the vocals baffles me - what do you want? A mid-Atlantic drawl? The music has progressed (in a good way) and now I can hear Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd in some of the guitar duelling which can never be a bad thing, right? And the rhythm section is tight and deserves greater recognition. The drumming is on the money all the way through and Wolf People benefit hugely from such a great propulsive team in the engine room. `Fain' pushes the band closer to greatness. The next one should be their definitive statement.

So, should you buy it then? Yes you should. Four stars.
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on 5 December 2013
Yes, indeed - this has become my current favourite and I can't stop playing it. As has been said, full of retro-prog-folk-rock charm and they have rekindled my love of fuzz. Masterful use of riff and guitar textures, liberally sprinkled with Bonham-esque drum triplets and all sounding very analogue - a welcome antidote to contemporary slickness. Love the vocals and it's quite endearing that the lyrics suggest that they believe they are somewhere in the 17th century, or thereabouts.

This sounds like a band who have found themselves i.e have a coherent identity. The overall production sound is great and there's not a weak track on the album (quite unusual in my experience). I only discovered them this year (via Cerys on Radio6, I believe) so will be tracking down their other work and hear they are excellent live.

Highly recommended for those who love their rock tinged with retro folk and splashed with vintage fuzz.
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on 28 September 2013
I'd never heard of Wolf People before buying this album on the basis of a review.
Boy am I glad I did! Strangely wonderful with some dark brooding songs which defy categorisation.
Wonderful!
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on 25 February 2015
My favourite new album by a newish band - superb. This band are like a cross between early Wishbone Ash and early Fairport Convention. If you like either of those you will most definitely enjoy this album. Excellent stuff and the vinyl is just fine.
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on 3 April 2015
Great
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on 30 June 2013
This is a fantastic album, with so many influences and so accomplished. I feel like I've found my new favourite band, which at my age is a total surprise, but a fantastic one.
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on 18 December 2013
Rather proggish. There's enough musical variety here to maintain my musical attention through the whole album. Appetite has been sufficiently whetted to see this band live. Decent buy
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on 22 June 2015
Great
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on 19 October 2013
Been playing this on repeat ever since I bought it. Brilliant. A bit heavier than Steeple. Can't wait to catch them live.
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VINE VOICEon 29 April 2013
Driving round all day with Wolf People blasting out is a nice way to spend a day. And, it's very good, not quite worth the £1,500 plus asking price someone is selling for it at the time of writing!, but nonetheless a triumph.

I saw these boys play at the Brudenell in Leeds last year, you sometimes just know when you see talent oozing off a stage, and by god they enveloped me in their fantastic retro soundscapes.

First thing to strike you about this album is how wordy they have become,perhaps with the exception of the second track, positively oozing with intelligent lyrics.

Wolf People are young (ish) but you would be forgiven for thinking you are listening to seasoned masters of their craft- they have the damned lot- musical ability, great songwriting, a sense of time and place, an indebtedness to their musical past ( way to many to mention but Fairports,bits of Tull, and a dash of early Fleetwood Mac).

This album feels just a little less wayward, but dont mistake that for constrained, they let rip oft , especially on " When The Fire.........", which comes to an abrupt stark ending, as if to say " ok enough now ! ". But its not enough I could listen to hours of their musical musings and tangential meanderings.

Its still very psychedelic but maybe a tiny bit more folky in a Pentangle kinda way; in much the same way that folk bands draw on old ballads or tales from folklore, so do Wolf People- in particular "Thief", telling the tales of highwaymen drawn from old ballads; and then we have decidedly heavy moments redolent of the early days of hard rock akin to Sabbath?

It would be easy to think with a nod to so many influences that you would end up listening to a positive mish mash of incoherent music with no real focus or identity, far from it I would suggest- they manage to instill every song with their own identity and eclecticism. In much the same way that Midlake take old sounds and craft them into a new way of hearing them , then so do these boys, retro but new...magnificently.

I remember one of the band saying they all had jobs and produce music when they can get togethor..god knows why, they should be a huge band, but then is it not oft the case that the best remains a bit niche sometimes...ah well.
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