Wolftron- Flesh & Fears

The frontman of Daphne Loves Derby does a solo album of romantic pop. But where's the heart?


Flesh & Fears

Label: Eyeball
US Release Date: 2008-05-06
UK Release Date: 2008-05-05

There were reasons to dislike Wolftron before I even listened to the album. Reason number one: Kenny Choi, the man responsible for everything on the album besides the drums, named his act "Wolftron". Choi is the frontman of an established indie band, Daphne Loves Derby, so he must be aware of the plethora of indie bands with the word "wolf" in their names:Wolf Parade, Wolfmother, Wolf Eyes, Patrick Wolf. And yet he's forcing us all to deal with yet another wolf-themed name, furthering the lupine confusion. Reason number two: The liner notes tell us that the album was recorded in "Kenny's bedroom AKA Mos Eisley" while Jason Edwards' drums and percussion were recorded in "Jason's bedroom AKA Death Star." Ugh. Star Wars references are more than a little aggravating and overdone at this point.

But putting on the album, it's actually a pretty good effort. Flesh & Fears is a straightforward romantic pop album, alternating between piano and guitar-based songs built around Choi's solid singing voice. The disc opens with "Crystal Skulls", an airy song with several different guitar lines augmented by subtle strings and strong drums and percussion. It has no real chorus or recurring hook, but it's well-written and nicely establishes the sound of the album. "Ms. Luna Grim" comes next, riding a darker, minor-key pop groove. The strings of the previous song are replaced with harmony backing vocals, a jazzy soprano saxophone sound, and a bit of warbly synth. The strings return for "Blueberry Waves", but Edwards' drumming once again stands out, driving Choi's melody and giving the song a groove.

The rest of the album goes along in the same vein. The songs are well-written and layered without being overproduced. They're all between 2 1/2- 4 minutes long, which emphasizes the pop aesthetic on display. The tunes are creative enough so that they don't sound similar to each other, but nothing particularly stands out, either. At least not until "Defeat of Starman" and its companion, "Provocations of Starman Jr", show up late on the disc. Musically, the songs aren't much different from what came before. The former is a piano-driven minor-key piece anchored by Edwards' drumming; the latter is more driving and upbeat. Even the lyrics aren't particularly noteworthy, but somehow Choi's vocal performance feels more heartfelt than on the rest of the album.

And that's when it hits me. Amidst all this well-written, nicely arranged pop music, there's been a missing element. Kenny Choi has the voice to pull off this type of music, but it sounds like he's writing romantic pop from an outsider's perspective, without the heart. When I think of pop music and/or love songs that have really clicked with me over the past decade or so, a few examples jump to mind. Early Badly Drawn Boy, before he lost that heart and descended into treacle. Ben Folds when he's being serious. Hell, even that first Maroon 5 album. Sure it was overplayed to death, but Adam Levine sounded like he had really experienced the romance and the heartbreak he was singing about. Choi's lyrics are more ethereal and his music doesn't have much, if any, grit, but that doesn't matter. What really makes or breaks this kind of album is the vocal performance, and Choi isn't convincing enough for me. Flesh & Fears is solid in every other aspect, and Jason Edwards does a great job throughout with the drums and percussion. But just a little more heart could have made this album a standout instead of merely solid.


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.