Idiot Pilot - Wolves (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Idiot Pilot

Wolves (2007)


Idiot Pilot really cheated the idea of a dynamic with their debut, Strange We Should Meet Here. Random screams and keyboard loops resonated below a blatant Radiohead-inspired surface, and it made for awfully disconnected listening. Luckily, the band has cleaned up and streamlined their sound for the followup, Wolves, but unfortunately they remain largely derivative without offering an entirely new set of tricks to differentiate them from their influences.

Wolves still finds Idiot Pilot often sounding an awful lot like Radiohead, and when they take on a more straightforward rock approach, well, they sound like Muse. Take opener "Last Chance"; there's a cool trip-hop beat spread throughout, but the transition to the big chorus seems a little abrupt. "Elephant" contains an urgent, driving keyboard line that sets the song's mood; however, when it finds Michael Harris's voice offering brief, Yorke-esque high-pitched cooing in precipitous bursts, it feels like something's missing. It just isn't as pounding as it could be and as a result it's a weak shift when it could be a rather invigorating and impressive break. Maybe it's the mix; maybe it's Mark Hoppus' valley-less production. Maybe Idiot Pilot could benefit from some pregnant pauses, but they ultimately prove they're safe sex practitioners.

At the very least, the band have largely eschewed their violent temper. Caustic screams don't truly enter the fold until the fourth track, "In Record Shape." Whether or not you'd like to label this as maturation, mostly swapping it out in favor of more classy experimentation -- i.e. the well-integrated saxophone (?) of "Theme from the Pit" -- is welcomed. However, the one other time the band screams, it actually works pretty well: Moments of "Planted in the Dark" seriously sound like something off Botch's American Nervoso thanks to jagged riffs, fierce yelps and an electronic coating.

The prime standout, however, comes in the form of seven-minute closer "Recurring Dream," which finds the band breathing a bit more and exploring atmospheric ground somewhere between their oft-compared influence -- Radiohead, of course -- and Appleseed Cast. To conclude it, a soft percussive roll tumbles forth while gentle riffs repeat and cascade, building and building while a string section -- usually a tacky major label add-on -- actually complements the track. It's maybe the best song the band's written to date.

In my review of Strange, I mentioned the band's sound would be conveyed worlds better if they simply stopped "fucking around," and while one assumes they never actually read the review, that's precisely what they've done. However, they still haven't quite found the proper execution to really make it work, though there are times on Wolves that promise a day when they truly will.

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