Idiot Pilot: Wolves

Most were hoping that Idiot Pilot would play to the strengths of their debut to produce a top-notch follow-up; in reality, they've played to their weaknesses and come out with a sophomore that is little more than average.

Idiot Pilot


Label: Reprise
US Release Date: 2008-02-12
UK Release Date: 2007-10-01

It was always going to be interesting to see how Idiot Pilot handled this one. Their debut, Strange We Should Meet Here, met a generally positive reception, though this mild acclaim was tempered by almost universal proviso, varied in substance but consistent in presence. Radiohead plagiarists; emo boys with too many toys; overusers of screaming in a style to which it was ill-suited -- these were some of the gripes levelled at the duo's first offering, and some of the issues that prevented a potentially innovative conception being molded into a satisfying whole. So the question with their sophomore is naturally how -- and indeed if -- the Washington duo took on board these complaints.

The answer, Wolves, is not particularly clear. A bit. Idiot Pilot have tweaked a few knobs, made a few changes, but the result, though different in sound, is a similar one in effect: an occasionally diverting but essentially unremarkable album. The adjustments: Wolves has more of a band feel about it rather than the bedroom aura of its predecessor. This is largely due to the increased presence of guitars in preference to laptops and synth, as well as the widespread displacement of drum machines in favour of a real live human stick-peddler, namely Chris Pennie of dramatically coiffed emo-progsters Coheed & Cambria. Oh, and the screaming's pretty much gone, too. But the problem is, with these changes the band also seem to have dispensed with some of the idiosyncrasies that made them an interesting prospect in the first place. There was something admittedly appealing about Strange We Should Meet Here's clash of home-brewed electronica and messy guitars and the dual vocalists' ability to veer from an almost lackadaisical sigh to frantic screams at will, even if it didn't always quite work. Wolves, however, has had its edges smoothed and veneer glossed until the qualities that made the former album are frequently imperceptible.

Gauged on its opening overtures, however, it looks at first as though nothing's changed. The insistent, digitized drumming and Michael Harris's melting vocal sobriety means "Last Chance" introduces Wolves as a continuation of previous fare rather than a reinvention. But as the record unravels it reveals itself to be one whose creators have made a concerted effort to fill it with tunes, hooks, and choruses, belying the rough-and-ready experimenting of Strange We Should Meet Here. And so the crunchy power-chord based chorus of the opener is a tactic repeatedly employed, in "Elephant", "Retina and the Sky", and later "In Record Shape". And where Daniel Anderson's screams had previously proved a focal-point (albeit an unwanted one in some quarters), where these tactics of abrasion are resorted to now, as on the throaty howls of "Red Museum", it seems forced, like a tacked-on attempt to appease the emo kids.

On the one hand you could see this increased emphasis on regular song structures as an effect of maturity, but on the other, it seems to have robbed Idiot Pilot of a little of their bite. There are decent songs on Wolves, but time and time again they show themselves to be the ones that aren't conventional songs at all. The likes of closer "Recurring Dream", for instance, is more linear than anything else here, and though its explosive finale seems a little contrived, it is still more satisfying than any of the over-polished chorus repetition that opens the album.

Ultimately though, Idiot Pilot's sophomore is a little too spineless. It's as though, in the attempt to iron out some of the flaws of their debut, its follow-up has lost some of its character. And so, while on the face of it Wolves should be a more satisfying album that its predecessor, in reality it isn't. Strange We Should Meet Here was rough-around-the-edges and all the better for it; Wolves, under the production helm of Mark Hoppus, is too neat and tidy for its own good. Most were hoping that Idiot Pilot would play to the strengths of their debut to produce a top-notch follow-up; in reality, they've played to their weaknesses and come out with a sophomore that is little more than average.


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.