The Noisettes - What's the Time, Mr. Wolf?

The Noisettes
What's the Time Mr. Wolf?

(Cherry / Universal Motown)

First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2007, Volume 14, #5

Written by John Metzger

Mon May 7, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT


Considering how unconventional that its approach to making music happens to be, it’s strange that The Noisettes opted to follow the current standards for organizing What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?, its full-length debut. Front-loaded with the four songs that it had released as singles over the course of the preceding several years, the collection gets off to a riveting start as The Noisettes plows through the Stray Cats-on-amphetamines fury of Don’t Give Up, pitting the hyperactive purr of Shingai Shoniwa against a backdrop of churning guitars and pounding rhythms. Crossing Jefferson Airplane with Jimi Hendrix, the subsequent Scratch Your Name fares even better, providing the perfect entree to the folk-y flair of The Count of Monte Christo — a tune that KT Tunstall surely would kill to own. The explosive Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit) — a gospel-and-blues-imbued tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe — completes the cycle by returning the band to the exuberantly delivered, genre-smashing garage rock with which it began the endeavor.

Although its singles have come to define The Noisettes’ sound — which, it must be noted, they have accomplished rather effectively — they also reveal too much too soon, especially when they are stacked in sequence at the start of What’s the Time Mr. Wolf? Consequently, they set the bar so high — and leave so little room for the group to maneuver — that the rest of the endeavor can’t help but to carry less weight. Granted, there is a lot of potential lurking within the snarling chant of Bridge to Canada, the orgasmic IWE, the deliriously disorienting Mind the Gap, and the jazz-and-soul dreaminess of Cannot Even (Break Free). However, for all of the theatrical posturing that Shoniwa employs and for all of the flexibility that her band lends to the material, it too often feels as if the latter half of the set has yet to achieve the same level of ripeness.

Given time, The Noisettes ought to be able to refine the abundance of ideas that it has outlined on What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?, and if it is able to do so, it likely will become something truly special. Nevertheless, in an age where music fans and record labels alike suffer from serious cases of attention deficit disorder, one has to wonder if The Noisettes will be offered the opportunity to develop at its own pace or if it will be dumped by the side of the road when the spotlight shifts elsewhere. Time will tell, of course, but if the latter scenario were to become reality, it would be a tellingly sad day for the music industry. starstarstar

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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


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