Peter Wolf Crier’s debut album, Inter-Be, was an understated and quietly compelling album that unfairly flew under the radar of too many. “Understated” and “quiet” are two adjectives that you would not associate with the band’s follow up album Garden of Arms. It’s not uncommon for a band to want to expand upon their sound on their second outing, but the way in which Peter Wolf Crier have overhauled their sound for this album is akin to the way in which an old house can be updated to include the most modern fixtures; and just like with a house there are certain elements that seem garish and extraneous, while much of the charm is lost.
Texturally there is plenty to enjoy here; Peter Pisano and Brian Moen seem to have taken some extra time to work on different sounds, starting with the reversed piano chords that herald the album’s opening and the other reversed tones and fuzz that permeates the rest of the songs. However, the way in which these layers are manipulated seems half-baked, and the songs never seem to quite get their ideas in order before the end comes. The songs on Garden Of Arms seem to all end in one of two ways: either all too abruptly – just as it seems a song has built up a head of steam it suddenly dies – or building up to a grand finale, driven by the ubiquitous rapid snare hits, which, although hackneyed, are some of the more enjoyable portions on the album.
Additionally, a lot of the album seems distorted – probably purposefully. Gone are the tactful brush sticks and instead we have loud and up-front drums (even pointlessly doubled-up on some songs) that drive these songs, often underpinned by a large dose of bass. It seems that the duo is aiming for something much more primal, and maybe even tribal on this release. They come close to what it seems they’re aiming for on the best of tracks, such as “Hard Heart,” but they never seem to fully let themselves go enough to achieve something that seems to have spawned from unadulterated inspiration. Vocally every song seems similar, and lyrically nothing seems to stand out – never is there a moment that seems possible to picture a whole crowd chanting at a live show.
In actual fact, for all its bombastic ventures, the album flourishes in its more restrained moments. The best of these is the start of “Beach,” which has little more than interplaying voices, plucked guitar and spare percussion, and even when it does inevitably burst into a fleshed-out sound the various melodies are allowed space without being quashed by needless vocals. However most of these restrained moments are unfortunately short-lived and usually end up as a small part of another insipid standard indie rock song.
Inter-Be was famously recorded in one sitting, which explains its spare and intimate sound. Garden Of Arms seems to be Peter Wolf Crier trying to prove that, given time, they can create music that is grand and intricate – which they have done, but neither of things are interesting by default. Garden Of Arms is a disappointment, but by no means a failure; next time Peter Wolf Crier need to not only focus on how to make interesting-sounding songs, but how best to execute them too.