Somewhere between the doe-eyed optimism of pop music and the smoldering haze of blues rock lies a tolerant medium at which twitchy guitar melodies reside. It’s an ambitious yet somewhat anxious zone where acoustic meets electric and folk music crescendoes to the volcanic peak of sullen grunge. There’s the occasional harmonica solo, the indulgent jam session and the Hendrix-esque feedback that carries a tune from innocent textural riffs to medicinal compositions that flirt with the supernatural.
Wolf People, an independent Brit-rock outfit, is all of the above, with an aesthetic that pivots between Jim Morrison and the aforementioned Voodoo Child, while casting an eye toward Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Grateful Dead. On Steeple, Wolf People’s full-length debut, the quartet delivers a delightfully edgy product that seethes and boils before settling into its comfortably soothing cocoon.
As Steeple progresses, it becomes apparent that the vocals aren’t as important as the rhythms that drive it to prominence. And while the album contains many superlatives, its efficiency and organization stand tallest. The recording lasts a modest 43 minutes, but the album’s nine songs are thorough enough to make the product feel complete. Wolf People doesn’t waste time setting the intensity, as the opening track, “Silbury Sands,” begins with a down-tempo, sinister bass line and high-pitched guitar riff, before it explodes into upbeat unrest. The one-two punch of “Morning Born” and “Cromlech” — sitting directly in the middle of Steeple — takes an already impressive project to its psychedelic heights, devastating amplifiers and cymbals along the destructive path. The album’s next song, the noisy “One By One From Dorney Reach,” fits comfortably within the scope of its predecessors, although it’s not nearly as intense as the previous songs. The turbulence continues to subside on the two-part “Banks of Sweet Dundee,” as the band successfully blends traditional rock with folk for a mystical blend that brings Steeple to a very worthy close.
Rock ‘n’ roll, when performed properly, has limitless potential as a genre that can excite, uplift and reflect. Wolf People, with its dedication to history and multiple facets, has managed to do all those things with the utmost efficiency. Although Steeple is not entirely groundbreaking, it’s not entirely safe either, as its fidgety temperament is remarkable enough to make anyone feel at home.