The problem with the type of psychedelic blues-rock that Wolf People trade in is not so much its closeness to the classic music that quite obviously influences it – Led Zeppelin, Blind Faith, Cream, Jimi Hendrix et al – it’s the slightly unavoidable and inescapable likeness it shares with so many of blues-rock’s offspring; some of whom – most notably, Ocean Colour Scene, and also Kula Shaker – pale to near-insignificance in comparison with the potency and creativity of their forebears.
Thankfully, potency is not really something that Steeple lacks, especially as Silbury Sands bombards the listener with the first of what feels like a dozen Jimmy Page-esque solo-ing escapades. And the solos do rifle their way agreeably through the album’s reasonably brief (for a blues-rock record) duration. But this potency, albeit finely crafted, does come a little at the cost of that something that will set it apart – the creativity bit. Which is a shame. Nothing is really added to blues-rock’s annals here; far more is taken away. But Steeple is nothing if not enthusiastic with its reverence.
The album’s slightly sub-standard retrospective basis might be enough to turn some purists off from the get-go. So too might some of the tracks that feel like they’re jam sessions that were too quickly fleshed out into real songs. And in typical blues-rock fashion, each and every track can be wildly self-indulgent. There’s certainly nothing particularly pop about Steeple and there are few, if any, single candidates. But conversely, this might be the kind of news starved rock fans have been waiting for.
There can be no doubt that the frenzied, head-back-and-eyes-closed strewn-with-effects fretwork heard on tracks like Cromlech will satiate a need that is, rather regrettably, more associated today with Guitar Hero than actual guitar heroes. And, talking in a strictly technical sense, this band are as musically cohesive as they come; think an English BLK JKS. But there’s something about Steeple that always draws the listener back to blues-rock’s second and third leagues. Perhaps it’s the band’s timid-voiced lead singer who seems a little irrelevant as he plays second fiddle to the album’s cannon shot of guitars and drums. Perhaps it’s the album’s Led Zep-lite lyrics that feel even more irrelevant than the guy that’s singing them. Whatever it is, Steeple is hopefully the start of something, rather than a pinnacle.
If anything, Wolf People fill that middle ground between rock heroism and cheap throwaway hedonism. In the same way this band are appreciably removed from that slew of ’90s-era blues-rock charlatans, they are equally distanced from their true musical godfathers. There are certainly things to enjoy here, but too often Steeple is searching for its soul. It’s a soul that will probably forever be caught in a bygone time.