We all know not to judge a book by its cover, but The Wolfhounds have put Joel Goodman’s remarkable Hogarthian snapshot of last new year’s eve in Manchester on the front of their album and it’s hard to see how it could be more perfect. The parentheses in the title ‘Untied Kingdom (…or how to come to terms with your culture)’ drive the point that the shabby state of things in our beloved homeland has been getting under Callahan’s skin even more than it used to. He always did cast a caustic eye on proceedings and his gift for words has matured and grown stronger. The cover we shouldn’t be judging them by is the ‘old blokes reform their moderately succesful 80’s indie band for a bit’ one, because their record is far better than that. It’s pretty vital and inventive. Like the recently mentioned Blue Aeroplanes and That Petrol Emotion, The Wolfhounds were an 80’s band of awkward buggers who never really fit in very well at the time. Their return as something still smart and hungry has been a joy. Opening with a ghost of Victoriana looming up through Callahan’s mobile the record wanders through vignettes and ruminations on what, for the sake of argument, we’ll call Britishness. ‘Now I’m a Killer’ sounds very much like The Wolfhounds of old, ‘My Legenday Childhood’ brings in Terry Edwards for some pleasing brass stabs and, by Wolfhounds standards, a shiny pop hit of a tune. Golding’s scratchy, textured guitars and Callahan’s scathing whine always made them an abrasive listen and throughout they sound like the same band while still stretching out their sound in all directions. ‘Fire In The Home’ is built on a clunking piano rhythm and full of spidery, needly, guitar. ‘Oppositeland’ seems to be just vocals and guitar recorded in a wardorbe, which it might be, the whole record having been recorded in the bands’ homes. ‘The Comedians’ is a pretty classic Wolfhounds breakneck pop tune with a lyric that bends and rejects old gags and attitudes from 70’s TV comedy and takes us into the closing ‘Across The River Of Death’ a stomping, wide ranging, parade of human frailty that comes in just under eight mins without ever dragging. It’s a great record, both current and somehow the sort of thing no one ever makes anymore.
Is that just me being a middle aged grump?
Protomartyr remind me a bit of The Wolfhounds, but they’ve never been as good.