To describe everything going on Chemicals, the first album from Vancouver-based Only Wolf, would probably require a Weird-Canada-level lexicon. Sean Parker dabbles in the psychedelic, that’s for sure, and later on his music shows a little more clearly its folk side. More often than not these two sounds meld for a sensory trip.
The opening three songs seem to be inspired by the album title, in fact finishing off with the title track. The first song, “Snow,” is purely bewildering, with ghostly, heavily-echoing vocals over strummed guitar. It’s like the musical form of chemical-fueled madness. “Tiny Pills” begins with a drum machine and the sounds of traffic before a few electric guitar chords ring out. The lyrics referring to tiny pills seem to signify someone realizing what the chemicals are doing. And finally, there’s the title track, with much clearer vocals and a sense of urgency to the guitar chords.
The album takes a monstrous turn as it moves onto “Babycakes,” where Parker heavily manipulates his vocals to create a dark, almost satanic voice. The finger snaps give the song a sense of rhythm regardless of the terrifying voice, and for a few brief seconds it threatens to implode upon itself, giving the song a real sense of danger. The heavy vocal manipulation will rear its head again in “The Chemist” and somewhat in “Stretchhh” as well.
The final three songs see Parker’s aforementioned folky side come out in full. “Danette (Acoustic)” is exactly what it sounds like it’ll be; just Parker and his acoustic guitar. It’s a nice breath of fresh air from the psychedelics, and really gives Parker a chance to show he has some vocal chops. “Petit Oiseau” has a rambling Dylan-esque quality to it with its guitar-centric melody. The barely-there drum machine is a nice touch.
Finally, there’s “Mr. Wolf,” which weaves a hypnotic and danceable beat with slightly terrifying lyrics, beginning with the question from the infamous children’s game: “What time is it, Mr. Wolf?”
Only Wolf has appeared a few years after the peak in “wolf” bands, and it’s a good way to usher the name back in, bringing the canine back to its natural roots. A wolf-referencing psych-folk act is much more welcome than another wolf-themed rock band.
Top Tracks: “Chemicals”; “Mr. Wolf”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)