S.M. Wolf
Bad Ocean
People In A Position To Know
★★★★

If you plan on doing one thing for June’s First Friday celebration in Indianapolis, make it S.M. Wolf’s album release show at the White Rabbit. This indie psych-pop band will be releasing Bad Ocean on People In A Position to Know, June 1.

Bad Ocean carries the torch of rich indie pop history this city offers. This album will be engraved in the annals of Indiana album greats along the likes of the Datura Seeds, the LoveMeKnots, or The Vulgar Boatmen while paving their own path into unintentional greatness.

Adam Gross is a multi-instrumentalist. Working as an elementary school special education teacher, he formed S.M. Wolf as a one-time solo endeavor. A tribute to the 2013 spring Equinox, his work was included in a cassette compilation focusing on the the theme of the changing season. Feedback was favorable that led to a full band and live shows. Even in the rudimentary stages, S.M. Wolf was catching the gleaming eyes of locals.

Their debut Neon Debris, released by Jurassic Pop and In Store Recordings made local weekly alternative, Nuvo’s 100 Best Hoosier Albums Ever. The songs on Neon Debris are gritty. Gross took sandpaper to rough-up the edges of these pop constructions that swim above lo-fi yet don’t quite land beyond the garage. It shows a thriving force to the grup with Gross’s knack for writing amazing indie pop songs where you can smell the alternative forces at work. “Help Me Out” jangles out from a distance while “Age of Impurity” is immediacy through power pop punk savagery siphoned through beat-up instrument sounds. It’s enough to award itself amongst the local legends of Crazy Al’s greats.

Several years have passed and Bad Ocean places the band at a higher production level even if they recorded it on 8-track reel-to-reel in Gross’s home. Fans of Neon Debris may be put off by the bigger and somewhat less haphazard style that acts as a sheen to the psychedelic fuzz. But follow the band’s evolvement and this is where S.M. Wolf needs to be. Gross’s lyrics need exalted. The current collective of musicians (Melanie Rau, Ben Leslie, Rachel Enneking, and Bryan Unruh) deserve that big sound. They sonically explore at least where songs like “Dark Chasm” are involved. Guitar notes scrape up situations that generate philosophical adventures sprouting off internal side streets. The solos on this song blare down like humidity.

“War Horse” is catchy in the song’s blossoming contrast of big hooks and dissonance. When they land that melody, it knocks you over and becomes your own mental construct.

Not every song floats in the clouds. “Destruction” follows and looms over us with furrowed brow and noisy release. And by the time you hit “Silence Houses” you listen at their demeanor and imagine the room-shaking levels this band had to hurdle to make it to this final product. S.M. Wolf surrounds itself in a universe of glorious noise floating amongst our galaxy, ringing out the strum of “Ghost Towns” and the pop meanderings of “The Station.” Each member should look back and be amazed at what an incredible album this is.

S.M. Wolf – The Station

Bad Ocean is a natural fixture of Hoosier pop folklore; a product of the community of musicians who scraped knees on the sidewalks we walk on, burnt late nights at house parties, and who reverberate the close-knit spirit of the Indianapolis sound bred out of perseverance. Outside of this document is a universal sound that will infatuate anyone who stumbles on this release, worthy of soaking up in its entirety.

Categories: Reviews

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