Album review: Dream Wolf - Learn To Survive (EP)

One of my pet peeves as a lover of all types of music is when you mention a band to someone and their immediate reaction is, "Oh yeah, those guys sound like…" I mean, I get it. Our culture is full of musical references. I, for one, don’t think it’s a bad thing. To be influenced by other people’s art is natural for an artist. Most of the music we grew up listening to was a direct descendent from something else; we just don’t know about it, so we think it’s “totally original.” No one on the planet can convince me they are playing something that isn’t derivative of something else. All that being said, I admire bands that wear their influences on their sleeves. Not to replicate it, but to push it along and give it new life in a new context. Dream Wolf’s three-song EP, Learn To Survive, does exactly that and does it well.

"Future Man" is a really the perfect opener for this set because it sums up the band’s idiosyncratic take on '70s prog-glam rock. Pushed along by Kansas-ish keyboard tones and some laser-focus guitar playing, the song sets the pace while spinning a Bowie-like lyrical yarn ("Circle now, around the Sun/What you’re seeing now, son, are things you don’t understand/But they will make you a man").

"All Time" starts off with an on-the-verge waltz feel, highlighted by chimes and terrific vocal work by Megan Zander and Katelyn Boone. Around 1:13, the song takes a veer into a shuffle hook, reminiscent of Meatloaf or Hedwig and The Angry Inch, before falling off into a quiet vocal round that builds back into a climax that should prove at least one member of Dream Wolf is related to Freddie Mercury.

Rounding out Learn to Survive is "The Water is Full of Lead," which invites us to join them in a swimming pool full of disease. However, it may be safer to stand around the pool and bask in the band’s ability to shift into more jazz-oriented playing styles, with a very nice piano solo to boot. Although stylistically these songs are obviously pure Dream Wolf, each one has an ability to spotlight the diversity of the band without losing track of what it is at the core.

I saw Dream Wolf play last fall and their live show was filled with thematic, over-the-top melodies and grooves that made me an instant fan. The expert musicianship of every member is evident on this recording as well as their exuberant imaginations that take the listener into strange situations. With another album coming up in the near future, this band will be one to watch as they reinvent their own versions of operatic rock and take it in new directions.

You can catch Dream Wolf tonight at Coda, headlining the show with guests Modern Arsonists and Sundiver. .

-Mike Tipton

Mike is a KC native that enjoys new music and playing with his band, Molly Picture Club. He also enjoys people watching and documentaries by Ken Burns.