❉ The debut album from the new band of Wolf People frontman Jack Sharp, boasts fuzzy, dirty hooks, hints of the baroque and shades of Canterbury psych.
Late last year, a new band called Large Plants put out a fabulous cover of Madonna’s La Isla Bonita as a single, and Shindig! magazine made it their Single of the Year. A wonderful slab of hard rocking psychedelia, it followed in the path of such classic unexpected covers as Dinosaur Jr’s version of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven and Sonic Youth’s epic deconstruction of Into the Groove(y) as Ciccone Youth, and took a pop classic, roughened up its smooth edges and created something more powerful from what was left.
Large Plants obviously knew what they were about, so it was no surprise, therefore, to discover that they were, in fact, the brainchild of Jack Sharp, lead singer of English psych band Wolf People. For those unaware of Wolf People, they are (or possibly were – the band announced they were on indefinite hiatus in January 2020) a band best known for a very folk-oriented psychedelia, who released two excellent albums back in 2010, Tidings and Steeple, both of which successfully channelled the sound of early ’70s UK folk rock/psych pioneers like Pentangle and Traffic.
Later albums moved into a slightly more prog and even hard rock direction, with the influence of Black Sabbath being mentioned by both reviewers and the band themselves, but to my mind their best work was on those early albums where they wore their love of folk rock on their sleeves.
Throughout all their albums, though, the songs were anchored by Sharp’s guitar playing and his plaintive, often melancholy, vocal, and this new album continues in similar vein.
Opener, and title track, The Carrier shows Sharp has moved on, though not in the way you’d be forgiven for expecting if you’ve heard his 2020 almost trad folk solo album Good Times Older. Instead, the song begins with echoes of CSN’s most gorgeous multi-layered vocals, and is as sweet a slice of mellow psych as you’re likely to hear this year. The guitar playing’s understated and subtle to match the wistful vocal, but on other tracks, Sharp lets rip with his signature guitar solos, with echoing vocals draped across the top of scuzzy, fuzzy, dirty hooks.
The pre-publicity calls the album a set of ‘heavy psychedelic rock belters‘ but I think that’s inadvertently doing it a bit of a disservice. There’s more to this album than just rock monsterdom – sure there are some great guitar lines on offer here (I Lie Awake in particular thunders in a way which I imagine is awesome live), but there are also hints of the baroque, shades of Canterbury, nods towards the more whimsical side of ’60s English psych (listen to The Witch and tell me you can’t hear all three elements at work).
The Carrier an impressive package all round, and one that could easily end up on a few Album of the Year lists this time round.
❉ ‘The Carrier’ by Large Plants (GBX041) is released via Ghost Box Records on 22 April 2022 on LP, CD and all digital channels. The heavyweight vinyl LP version comes with full colour inner sleeve and free download card. Ghost Box social media links: Facebook Twitter Instagram Spotify Soundcloud
❉ Stuart Douglas is an author, and editor and owner of the publisher Obverse Books. He has written four Sherlock Holmes novels and can be found on twitter at @stuartamdouglas