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On September 26, Michigan scree-rock kings Wolf Eyes released their second LP on Sub Pop, appropriately titled Human Animal. The record joins an already-running pack of recent wolf albums, including the self-titled debut LP by Zeppelinesque riff-mongers Wolfmother, Apologies to the Queen Mary by indie-popping blog idols Wolf Parade, and The Lovvers LP by the slightly unsettling AIDS Wolf.
With more wolf product no doubt on the way, it’s evident that we’ve entered the full-moon phase for wolf bands. At least some rock critics think so: Chuck Klosterman made the observation in Spin last year that “All things considered, this is not a great time to be a wolf. But it is a wonderful time for wolf rock.” Bands are savvy enough about the phenomenon to joke about it, too. Wolf Scrotum, a group out of Los Angeles, seems to have formed just to be able to list more than 130 wolf-band influences on its MySpace page: the Diaper Wolf, Wolf Music, Wolf Cougar, Wolf Choir, Wolf Dog, Wolf Pup and the Handicaps…
But the rock scene has always been a comfortable habitat for wolves, or at least for dogs. Remember Guitar Wolf? Or Toto? For anybody with a long musical memory, the new wolf bands are just cluttering up the canine-knowledge file. While Howlin’ Wolf will probably never be mistaken for AIDS Wolf, there’s We Are Wolves to worry about—and Los Lobos are still prowling around for those who speak Spanish.
In the end though, it doesn’t really matter. Wolf bands, perhaps following pack instinct, tend to share a lot of the same behaviors. To show their similar heritage, interests, and accomplishments, the Washington City Paper presents this Venn diagram of wolf bands.
Toto vs. Wolfmother
Both Wolfmother and Toto score a high 10-sided die roll for stealth by swiping album-cover imagery from the D&D Sourcebook. Wolfmother’s self-titled LP depicts a serpent lady who stands shrouded in billowing ocean mist. Toto has featured a broadsword on no fewer than four album covers.
Wolf Eyes vs. Lupine Howl
What possible good would a wolf band be if it weren’t up to no good? While English psych rock group Lupine Howl took time to “Sniff the Glue” and try out the “Vaporizer” during its 2001 Carnivorous Lunar Activities of Lupine Howl LP, Wolf Eyes was more outwardly destructive, trying to “Burn Your House Down” and “Let the Smoke Rise” on 2002’s Dread.
Toto vs. Wolfmother vs. Wolf Eyes
Each band revels in a Discovery Channel–esque fascination with epic times beyond memory, as indicated by such song titles as Wolfmother’s “Pyramid,” Wolf Eyes’ “Ancient Delay,” and Toto’s “The Other End of Time.”
Peanut Butter Wolf vs. Wolf Eyes
Hip-hop producer Peanut Butter Wolf’s fondness for obscure samples and the heavy beats of Wolf Eyes tracks such as “Stabbed in the Face” reveal a shared affection for deep cuts.
Three Dog Night vs. Wolfmother
Both bands have had commercial success. Three Dog Night had it 20 years ago, and Wolfmother 20 seconds ago.
Wolfmother vs. Howlin’ Wolf vs. Steppenwolf
Each group or artist has “jumped the shark” with highly questionable combinations of psychedelia and blues, such as Howlin’ Wolf’s poorly received flower power cash-in, This Is Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album. Steppenwolf remains in possession of the most serious offender with its pro-cannaboid ode, “Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam.”
Toto vs. Wolf Eyes
Both bands reveal a zeal for epic confrontations in such compositions as Wolf Eyes’ “Leper War” and Toto’s “Robot Fight”—the latter a contribution to the band’s soundtrack to David Lynch’s Dune.
Wolf Eyes vs. Wolf Parade vs. Wolfmother
The true nature of contemporary wolfiness is revealed in how each band insists it is haunted by the presence of unruly spirits. Otherworldly examples include Wolf Parade’s “Same Ghost Every Night,” Wolf Eyes’ “Reaper’s Gong,” and Wolfmother’s Australia-only bonus track, “Tales From the Forest of Gnomes.”
Temple of the Dog vs. Wolf Parade
Both groups display a primal appetite for grim food balladry with such songs as Wolf Parade’s “Dinner Bells” and Temple of the Dog’s tender Eddie Vedder/Chris Cornell duet, “Hunger Strike.” The former band laments that “There’ll be no more dinner bells to ring,” while the latter notes that “The fire is cooking/And they’re farming babies/While the slaves are working/The blood is on the table.”
Wolfmother vs. Dogstar
Each band includes a bass player who can attest to having taken an “excellent adventure.” However, in the case of Wolfmother’s Chris Ross, said adventure is more likely to have involved mushrooms and a wizard candle than Keanu’s time-traveling phone booth and George Carlin.
Wolfhounds vs. Wolf Parade
It’s a hard life for a wolf, all alone and hungry amid the unforgiving wilderness. Same for wolf bands. Both Wolf Parade and C86 twee-poppers Wolfhounds seek to express their sorrows through the most logical avenue available to them: pleasantly jangling guitars. Wolf Parade finds “18 reasons I can’t pick up on the phone” on the peppy “Grounds for Divorce,” while Wolfhounds say “Goodbye Laughter” with a few sunshine-filled open chords.
Lamb of God
Despite an abundance of seemingly wolfy characteristics (e.g., tattoos and piercings, long hair, drop-tuned guitars), Lamb of God is not a wolf band. It is a sheep band in wolf clothing.
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Kyle T. Webster.