It’s always difficult to balance technical ability and pop sensibilities for bands who like to dive into the mathy end of the rock ‘n roll spectrum. However, based on their self-titled debut EP, Chicago’s DICK WOLF! seem not not have any problem shifting between the two. While their album is chock full of tapping, warping time changes and eccentric tempos, they still manage to concoct some very bouncy and fun melodies, which makes DICK WOLF! an extremely promising debut.
DICK WOLF!, consisting of Jeff Kelley, Kevin Claxton and Eric Ridder, only formed in 2009, which is surprising seeing how complex their songs can be at times. They utilize all the math rock tricks in the book – dissonance, rapid fire start-stops, intricate dual-guitar lines and etc. But unlike their more well-known mathy peers, like Polvo, who the band seem to emulate at times, they don’t make math rock that’s abrasive and jarring. Rather, DICK WOLF! inject a large dose of melodic indie rock and Sonic Youth-esque swagger into their songs that really calls the listener to attention.
Opener “My Brother’s Phone Is Always Dead” begins with a rampant cat-and-mouse riff that gently drifts under Kelley’s simple yet effective vocals. The warm melodies break down, however, during the track’s mid-section to give way to a more rhythmic ending that revs up the fuzz and jazzy drum work.
“Comfortable Medium” starts with Ridder’s waterfall drum fills as harmonic guitar mischief to fill out the melodic side of things. The song transitions from the sweet dripping harmonics into a more noisy and speed increasing tempo in the middle, which features some fun, head-bob-inducing riffage from both Kelley and Claxton.
But DICK WOLF! seem to reach their full head of steam with the EP’s final and third track “Warbird”. The song’s off-kilter opening guitar lines actually settle into a mean groove, and short explosive non sequitur parts build even more tension throughout. Kelley’s vocals here recall Cedric Bixler Zavala from El Gran Orgo-era At The Drive-In with their energy during the non-instrumentation breaks, and the end subdued jam-out is, no pun intended, such music to the ears that it really makes you wish there was another track coming up next.
Of course, since it’s technically a demo, DICK WOLF!’s EP suffers at times in the production area. Ridder’s drums often sound buried, and that’s something they might want to push up in the mix later for rhythm’s sake seeing how the band is, for the most part, bass-less. The guitars also, at times, meld together when both should pop. But these are all problems that can be easily adjusted.
It’s difficult to catch a full glimpse of a band via a three-song, 15 minute EP, but DICK WOLF! definitely entices with their debut. It’s obvious the band has technical prowess, and it’s something to hear them make a conscious effort to not let that side take over and still stay in the more melodic and accessible side of rock. For the future, the band would seem to really benefit if they recorded something a little rawer and a little more live-sounding. But for the sake of living in the now, DICK WOLF! is a fun and promising debut that is engaging, skillful and fun all at the same time.
via Richard Giraldi at Loud Loop Press
released 10 April 2010
guitar, vocals, bass : Jeff Kelley
guitar, vocals, bass : Kevin Claxton
drums : Eric Ridder