When they burst onto the scene with the ‘We The Working Class’ EP earlier this year, Seán Grant and the Wolfgang looked all set to follow the likes of Frank Turner along the conscious-punk-folk pathway to success. Now they’re back, telling stories of WWII on new EP ‘War Machines’, and they’re pushing on, although at more of a stumble than a sprint.
Opening and almost title track ‘War Machine’ celebrates the work of wartime code-breakers Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers, and does so in precisely that rousing way that made their debut kick like a mule, unmistakably folk music but given a hefty punch. Here, we find Grant preoccupied with the lack of recognition given to Turing and Flowers, and while Benedict Cumberbatch’s film may go some way to rectifying this it’s unlikely to do so with the vim and vigour of this song.
Keeping things close to home, ‘Fairground Fighter’ is inspired by the uncle of Grant’s grandmother, whose photograph adorns the cover of the record. In a savage examination of the effects of the war upon the young men it swallowed up, we are told that “you can place your bets on the next young man to fall” by an impassioned lyricist unafraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, once more recalling their maiden offering.
‘Freedom Of The World’ continues this theme and adheres to the same folk-rock template, entering the mind of a soldier appealing to God in the most affecting cut on the EP. Closing track ‘Operation Mincemeat’ is a furious stomper but suffers for it musically, coming across as more blunt-force than simmering power; the sentiment is in there somewhere, though.
Given that the energy, emotion and passion is all present and correct, it’s hard to pin down exactly why this release doesn’t fizz like its predecessor. Its four songs fit snugly into the addictive folk-rock formula without looking to move beyond it, but, like so many themed albums before it, the subject matter can so easily dominate the musical whole. There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with an album about the Second World War, but it has to be said that such a concentrated narrative feels like a sideways step after the potent directness of their previous effort.
Words - Joe Ponting
War Machines is released on December 8th
Watch the video to War Machine