Picking up this album by Wolf Bites Boy after their recent very well received performance on the ‘new’ band stage at Rebellion Festival in Blackpool, I expected something good. Their live performance, so good as it was, meant that the merchandise stand outside the smallest of the festival stages struggled to keep up with demand. One of the joys of such a festival, is to come away with a list of bands new to you, seen and enthused by, and with the inclination to check out their back catalogue. In this case a dÃ©but album by a band that sparked a real reaction in those that witnessed them.
So, Wolf Bites Boy. A punk rock band, with a smattering of Oi! – that street smart punk attitude genre and also with a healthy dose of rock’n’roll sensibility. A band split geographically by the Southern tip of the Pennines, being part Sheffield and part Stoke-on-Trent based. A band whose first album is probably one of the best UK Punk releases that I’ve heard for several years. In fact I’d go as far to say that it is probably my favourite Punk album since Texas band, Black Star Brigade released ‘They Think They Can Knock Us Down’ , which, criminally ignored as it was, should have propelled them to the same levels as RANCID. Okay, so WBB are not quite at that level…. yet… but they could be based on this offering.
So, what can you expect with this album?
A more intelligent lyrical presentation is offered here than many of the bands peers in that whilst it covers the same subject matter; loyalty to friends, working class pride, punk pride, etc., what it doesn’t do is use the standard cringeworthy language. It has a feel of a yearning for the old times and youth but an acceptance of change but still with that punk attitude of not getting in flow with the rest of society. So songs like ‘Against The Grain’, ‘Fighting On’ with its “Don’t let the bastards grind you down” chorus and ‘Wear Your Heart With Pride’, flip the finger to those that would do you down and impose their will. Songs like ‘Gotta Get Away’, ‘Family Isn’t Always Blood’, ‘My Friend’ and ‘The Place That I Call Home’ deal with friendship, current and lost, in an intelligent way without being straight out of the ‘Ladybird book of street punk lyrics’. No generic lyrical content about ‘hanging out with the crew/gang’ and ‘fighting and drinking’.
Musically they have a stunningly good Punk Rock’n’Roll guitarist in Rob Lad. You can hear some great little licks in there, probably best shown in the song ‘Wear Your Heart With Pride’ where he cuts through the songs with a sound that could be Tim Armstrong banging out some Johnny Thunders licks. The fella also plays some nice off-beat rhythms as they throw in the odd ska feel; ‘I’ll Be There For You’. Some Punk bands can get that ska thing in there and not make it sound out of place and some can’t. These guys can and that may be because they have some level of love and respect for reggae and ska. Note their recent cover of Bob Marley on a 4 CD box set for Teenage Cancer Trust. There is also the fact that members of Stokes Ska heroes, The Rough Kutz, join them on a couple of tracks. ‘My Friend’, a song of lost friendship, disloyalty and ultimately of a lost girl has a beautiful, if too short, minor key lilting piano from a Rough Kutz member. It throws you on the first listen, unexpectedly coming out of the blue at you late in the album.
Stu, bassist and vocals throws in some great little fast and rumbling bass lines which are sometimes a little too low in the mix to showcase them properly. Drummer, Paul, is not your average Punk 2/4 time signature player. So put them together and you have a tight little rhythm section that leaves room for a wall of guitar sound to lay over the top or for Rob’s guitar licks to dovetail in between them. It’s the ability to layer their sound that lifts them above the average two dimensional UK punk band into great UK band or even into the US band territory without ‘being’ US sounding.
If they improve on this album with their next then there is no reason for us not to have our own big name UK punk band again to rival the Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph stable.
A gem of an album if this genre does it for you, so buy, blag or steal this… but get it!!!
Review: Mark Veitch
Photo – WBB PR