Hungry Like the Woof

{mosimage}A really smart girl here at the Weekly calls Wolfmother “Crapmother,” because the only song she’s heard is their radio single, “Woman.” If that were the only Wolfmother song I’d ever heard, I might not call them Crapmother, but Poopmeiser would be a definite possibility. “Woman” is tiresome and repetitive — it’s what cool rock-industry people in the cool ’70s used to call an “album cut.” It’s not a first single by any fucking stretch, and I don’t care how much pot has improved since the supercool superseventies. “Woman” is not that good, really.

And generally I can’t blame my co-worker for her cynicism. The reasons to resist Wolfmother are myriad, and all valid.

REASON NO. 1: Their name, about which enough has been said. So far, I have found myself unable to utter their name with a straight face. I use “Woofmother” instead, because it is just ridiculous enough to pull off.

REASON NO. 2: The hair. (The look, in general.) But that’s okay, because they’re not the kind of band a girl gets a crush on. They’re the kind of band guys get crushes on.

REASON NO. 3: Their hipster fan base, which usually has dreadful taste. (Witness the fact that they were featured by the Cobrasnake absolutely ages ago.)

REASON NO. 4: They were shoved down everyone’s throat at South by Southwest. It was nonstop Woofmother ads and flyers and stickers and beer cozies and then  — even once I was tucked into bed with the hotel-room TV on — an entire channel devoted to playing an endless loop of live Woofmother footage. The kind of money machine that steam-fuels a media push of that sort is always to be mistrusted. I can’t help but resist it, anyway.

REASON NO. 5: Until this album, Wolfmother, their music was pretty much stoners-only. Well, stoners and Sabbath people only.

REASON NO. 6: They have a song on an iTunes or iPod or iSomeshit ad.

But here's the thing: That song, “Love Train,” is a really good song. In fact, it’s the first really good song I’ve ever heard on an Apple commercial. In fact, it’s so delicious; it’s basically what forced me to give Woofmother another chance. I wish they hadn’t done that ad, but I can’t really hold it against them either.

Another thing that’s great about “Love Train” is that the opening is stolen directly from George Michael’s “Freedom.”

And so, rock lovers, despite all these reasons to resist, “Love Train” forced me to, you know, listen without prejudice. And I must admit to you now, that Woofmother’s a little bit of all right. 

Wolfmother and positive absurdity: You see, if you place Woofmother side by side, say, with American Idol ’06’s pseudo-“rocker” Chris Daughtry, you have a fine illustration of a basic but crucial lesson all rockers must learn. This lesson, this wisdom, is the rocker’s version of death and taxes: You gotta have a sense of humor.

I’m not saying rockers have to be overtly comedic à la Tenacious D — hardly — but to achieve rock & roll immortality you simply must have a grasp of the inherent absurdity of rock & roll. You may wink at that absurdity or you may embrace it fully and without irony, but you must understand that you are playing with the embers of silliness, which may explode at any point into full-blown comedy.

In fact, that fine line between clever and stupid, that tension between cool and ridiculous, is actually one of the main elements that keeps rock exciting. The more absurd you can go as a rocker while maintaining your coolness, the cooler you become. Case in point: Mick Jagger. Conversely, the more uncool you go, while lacking any sense of your own absurdity, the uncooler you become. Case in point: former Creed singer Scott Stapp. Note: Absurdity combined with genuine musical love can, over time, turn into a form of coolness. Case in point: Lenny Kravitz.

Which brings us back to Woofmother and Chris Daughtry. Chris has been known in my household during this American Idol season as “Creed,” for obvious reasons. It seems perfect that the ’90s rage-rock outfit Fuel want him for their lead singer. The guy doesn’t have a funny bone in his head. His attempt to cover Elvis’s “A Little Less Conversation” was his death knell as a contestant: He just couldn’t pull off the supple kind of humor demanded by that song.

Woofmother, on the other hand, have a full grasp and total respect for the absurdity of their genre, with song titles like “White Unicorn” (yes, “White Unicorn”), “Pyramid” and “Witchcraft.” It’s not a joke, and yet it’s not what you’d call serious either. It’s just right. Like John Lennon once said, they’re serious about not being serious.
That’s liberating for fans, and must be liberating for a band. I bet you a million bucks Jack White is totally jealous.  

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