Saturday, 29 May 2010

Wounded Lion - Wounded Lion (In The Red)

The intensely lo-fi, DIY aesthetic that surrounds the crop of noiseniks that frequent LA’s The Smell club has thrown up some real gems. The blazing dance/noise mindfuck of HEALTH is always the first that springs to mind – for good reason, as they’re a reliably spectacular proposition – but No Age’s early-Trail Of Dead-isms and frequently unhinged brilliance from Lucky Dragons and The Mae Shi have all featured highly in my listening over the last few years. Despite the obvious aesthetic difference between all of these artists, the common thread is a restless willingness to experiment, fuck up the rulebook a bit and see what emerges from the other end.

Less so with Wounded Lion, who despite having a moniker that suggests intense, thrashy noize are more a back-to-basics proposition. Low fidelity very much intact, their songs are short and sharp deconstructions of what you might expect rock music to sound like – no frills, little in the way of complexity, just tiny nuggets of sweet and sour. It’s this simplicity that proves both their greatest strength and their greatest weakness: when they hit the spot, as with the three-minute hedonistic smash of ‘Creatures In The Creatures’ or the shouty, call-and-response pop of ‘Dagoba System’ (major props for the Star Wars reference), it’s a gloriously straightforward affirmation of rock’s reductive pleasure. At the same time, there are many moments on their self-titled debut that feel almost too stripped back, managing to sacrifice longevity at the same time as they rid their music of complexity. Despite their fantastic titles, both ‘Hanging In Ancient Circles’ and ‘Belt Of Orion’ breeze past in a pleasant but forgettable haze.

Further listens to the album begin to reveal the songs that carry the most weight – even if it’s just because, as at the end of ‘Pony People’, he appears to be repeatedly shouting “Aeros” – the trashy punk of ‘Black Socks’ has a pleasantly Eighties Matchbox feel, and ‘Hunan Province’ is probably the catchiest thing on here. But perhaps that’s not enough; as an entire album, Wounded Lion never quite manages to reach the heights these songs suggest they’re capable of scaling.

Words : Rory Gibb

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