Is there a more demonised rock musician in Australia than Andrew Stockdale? As the frontman and driving force behind Wolfmother, he was lauded as a new rock god in the ilk of Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin, winning ARIA awards (Best Breakthrough Album/Best Rock Album), placing two singles in the Triple J Hottest 100 (Joker and the Thief/Mind’s Eye) and going five times Platinum in Australia. Yet despite this, Wolfmother and Stockdale in particular came to be the subject of widespread ridicule. It’s hard to gauge exactly what caused this level of loathing: Was it the firing of the rest of the band before their second album? Touring for almost four years with only one album released? The general pomposity of the group’s image and song? Whatever the case, there is a lot of animosity towards Stockdale that is hard to ignore and even harder to bypass when looking at his new material. This legacy has unfortunately tainted the reception to Stockdale’s new album ‘Keep Moving’ and has largely led to a dialogue that revolves around his previous musical efforts and failures of personality, rather than what he has accomplished on this record.
So what has he accomplished? 17 tracks that total around 80 minutes is not by any means a short record, which should serve to quieten those who complain about his limited song output over 8 years as a professional musician. On top of that, many of the songs on the album are actually really good, which should placate those who hated the underwhelming ‘Cosmic Egg’. He’s also managed to show a greater variety of styles than on anything he’s previously released.
On album opener ‘Long Way To Go’ and later on ‘Let Somebody Love You’, we hear Stockdale channeling The Black Crowes and particularly Chris Robinson’s vocals. The Raconteurs’ take on 70’s Americana rock is referenced on ‘Somebody’s Calling’ which has close similarities with their track ‘Hold Up’. Another recent influence, The Black Keys, would also not be ashamed to claim ‘Vacarious’ as one of their own. There’s the obligatory acoustic ballad, ‘Suitcase (One More Time)’, that was missing from Wolfmother’s bag of tricks and there’s even a jangly pop effort in ‘Black Swan’, which is heavily indebted to The Beatles. The trademark Wolfmother sound is of course in there as well: ‘Let It Go’, I’t Occurred To Me’ and ‘Year Of The Dragon’ tick all the boxes they used to cover so well, although the lyrics take a downward turn on these tracks, particularly on the last, which is some of the most awfully contrived wording Stockdale has used to date.
The strongest track on the album is ‘Standing On The Corner’. While still sounding as Stockdale as ever, he has managed to control his compulsion for grandiosity and has created a simple but very catchy song. Freed from the expectations of bombast that Wolfmother accumulated, he seems to have begun to figure out a sound that is more his own than just an accumulation of influences.
With the separation from the Wolfmother name, Andrew Stockdale has freed himself from the expectations this lumped on him: No longer does he need to be Australia’s answer to the 70s rock heavyweights. As such, anyone who tells you that this album is just a Wolfmother album under Stockdale’s name either has no musical taste or hasn’t listened to it. The smattering of tracks that reference Wolfmother’s style are totally overwhelmed by the diversity shown across the other 13 or so songs on the album. ‘Diverse’ is one adjective that could not be used to describe Stockdale’s previous musical efforts. In the past he has been frequently lambasted for sticking so closely to one musical style and genre and as such he became an easy target for those who hate ‘tall poppies’. This stemmed largely from the fact that his music so often wore its influences on its sleeve which can become a problem when you only have a few core influences.
Fortunately, on this album is that Stockdale has broadened his horizons. We can hear for the first time that he has listened to some music from the past twenty years and so, unlike his previous group’s albums, this is a record that is more indebted to blues or 70s revivalists than the originals themselves. The Black Crowes, The Black Keys and The Raconteurs are the influences that are most prevalent throughout this album and which Stockdale has proven he can compete with. ‘Keep Moving’ is not a perfect album and at 17 tracks there is some filler here but it is almost better to view this not as an album in itself, but as a resumé compiled by an aspiring musician for the public and his record label. Yes, Andrew Stockdale needed to prove that he could still write songs. He has done that. Let’s hope now that from this myriad of tracks, he’s found his own style and can forge his own path as a solo artist free from the expectations he’s been crippled by for so long.