During their original late ’80s tenure, The Wolfhounds were featured on the NME’s now legendary C86 compilation. A run of four albums later, they disbanded and didn’t release another album until a few years ago; listening to ‘Untied Kingdom (…Or How To Come To Terms With Your Culture)’ – their second effort since reforming – it’s not hard to see why they felt the need to give it another shot. The Wolfhounds are a band with things to say; even the album title epitomises the acerbic wit and political dissent that the band channel on their latest long player. Originally released on vinyl last year, the album earns a second look (this time on CD and digital) thanks to the record’s weight – ‘Untied Kingdom…’ is not an album to be listened to a few times and then discarded, rather it’s a work designed as a manifesto of intent that only grows in power with repeated play.
As the album title may suggest; The Wolfhounds are an unmistakably British band, both musically and thematically. This is an album concerned with the social inequalities that have plagued the UK for decades and it pulls no punches in its sharp-tongued social critique.
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The album starts on a purposefully jarring note with the unexpected ‘Apparition’. Lyrically surreal without being inpenetrable, it’s a song that borders on a-capella – musical backing is sparse to say the least – and it’s something of a strange, even disconcerting, note to start on. This, however, seems to be the point. The Wolfhounds, it appears, are eager to make sure that ‘Untied Kingdom..’ is as substantial an album as the themes it cover. Opening on such a track, then, seems like a knowing attempt to make sure the listener pays close attention from the very start, and if that is indeed its intended purpose, then it works well.
‘Untied Kingdom…’, a surprisingly varied collection of songs, never settles into one style. Experimental to the last, The Wolfhounds find themselves playing with a dizzying array of genres throughout the album – ‘Now I’m A Killer’ is an early standoud, boasting an angular, compulsive riff and razor sharp energy. After the playful indie pop of ‘My Legendary Childhood’ materialises, you’d be forgiven for assuming ‘Untied Kingdom…’ to be little more than a pleasing if somewhat familiar collation of dirty post-punk and humorous indie rock. Indeed, while the band do explore that sound at times, there’s some notably unexpected deviations here and that’s what gives ‘Untied Kingdom..’ it’s complex personality.
The snaking groove of ‘Lucky Heather’ suggests a mutant, abrasive form of dance music – whilst the dissonant, urgent drive of ‘Fire In The Home’ takes it’s cues from early Public Image Limited. That’s not the extent of the band’s strident experimentation, either; ‘Oppositland’ takes the rustic, lo-fi charm of home recorded folk and turns it on its head, to compellingly strange results. The song is such a left turn that it almost doesn’t sound like the work of the same band that created the rest of the album. It manages to save itself from feeling out of place largely by merit of having the same attitude and musicial ideology as the rest of the album. Like much of ‘Untied Kingdom…’, it’s an experiment, certainly, but one that works within the context of the album.
‘Untied Kingdom (…Or How To Come To Terms With Your Culture)’ is a varied, experimental set of songs that seeks to make a statement first and foremost. It’s an intriguing set of songs, and while a few of the album’s more abstract moments don’t quite gel with the record as a whole, it’s an admirable and worthwhile 45 minutes of music that sees The Wolfhounds on impressive form some thirty years after their initial formation.