Wounded Lion: Wounded Lion

Wounded Lion's full-length debut is full of simplistic two-chord garage pop. And therein lies the problem.

Wounded Lion

Wounded Lion

Label: In the Red
US Release Date: 2010-04-27
UK Release Date: 2010-04-26

Given its name, In the Red Records quite understandably trades in fuzzy, needle-busting lo-fi rock. The label has built itself quite a reputation in recent years with fantastic releases by the likes of Vivian Girls and Black Time, so it’s natural to hold the self-titled debut release by the Los Angeles-based fivesome Wounded Lion to a certain level of expectations. While decent for what it is -- simple and scuzzy garage pop played for the sheer fun of playing it -- Wounded Lion falls short of matching the best of what the label has to offer.

Wounded Lion’s main virtue is also the element that holds it back. Here’s a band that loves to spend three minutes or less at a time bashing out crude-yet-catchy songs that seesaw to and fro in a buzz of crunchy distortion. Imagine if the most rudimentary forms of twee pop were based on replicating the Nuggets boxed set instead of the jingle-jangle of the Byrds, and that’s pretty much what Wounded Lion puts forth. The group tries a little too hard to be dumb, sure, but it’s impossible to not crack a smile at bouncy cuts like “Dagoba System” where the band warns “They’ve got some crazy shit there” like “people with asses for faces”.

Despite its charms, the music’s limitations are readily apparent. Two- and three-chord songs abound, and most of the time the songs have little movement. The overall impression the album creates is that the song structures were expressly written to fit inside a box, hugging the sides perfectly with no intention of penetration beyond those boundaries. This restrictiveness keeps the music on the dinky side, preventing it from being truly absorbing rock music.

Yet beneath the simplicity lies hints that Wounded Lion is capable of something more. They can be found throughout the album in the form of Brad Eberhard’s David Byrne-esque yelp and the momentary bursts of jittery chord strumming, as well as individual stand out song moments, such the driving bass intro and rhythmic stabs of “Silver People” and acceleration-into-feedback ending of “Omar Walk”. The Wounded Lion bunch aren’t garage rawk dummies, as interviews that reference Plato, William S. Burroughs, and the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight can attest. There is a sort of crude artiness in how the band crafts these minimalist rockers, as if the simplicity of the music is a point in of itself, bringing to mind the deconstructed art-punk of early Wire. Still, it’s the moments when the band changes things up that are most compelling, which indicates that the group might want to expand its efforts beyond crafting yet another batch of house party-friendly two-chord riffs.

Wounded Lion is nothing more ambitious than a 12-track party record that one can bob his or her head along to in buzzed-out bliss. It’s not the best thing In the Red has put out recently (not by a long shot), but it does provide some simple joys. Pointedly self-limited or not, Wounded Lion can make decent music within the confines of its restrictive stylistic palette. Really, the main worry at this point is that the music seems to be already receiving more praise in hipster circles than it actually deserves. Yet I hold out hope that the real fun will be in seeing the band figuring out where it can go next.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.