Second album from London based singer/songwriter Alexander Wolfe finds him delving deeper into the influences apparent on his fine debut, Morning Brings A Flood. Again Wolfe plays most of the instruments himself and recorded the album over a weekend while strings and horns, courtesy of the “Wolfettes” were added later. Wolfe describes the genesis of the album as arising from a period of insomnia with brief episodes of sleep disturbed by disturbing dreams resulting in the blood and bone themes that recur throughout the songs. With an admitted interest in psychotherapy Wolfe believes this was his subconscious mind foretelling him of the imminent breakup of the relationship he was in allowing us to consider the album as a Freudian equivalent of Blood On The Tracks perhaps. However while Dylan veiled his songs in allusion and smoke and mirrors and Freud sucked his thumb in his cerebral womb dreaming up sexual metaphors Wolfe addresses his loss directly when he sings in the title song “she whispers softly that “I don’t need anyone”” and on Fangs “you took your love away, too soon.” However rather than begin a case study here it might be more useful to address the question of “what does it sound like?” The answer to that is a measured, “excellent.”
The basic skeleton of the songs, Wolfe’s voice and guitar or piano, adheres to a template laid down in the late sixties and early seventies. Confessional songs, best listened to alone, perhaps in a bedsit. Cosseted and comforted by the ambient additions and the sensitive string arrangements Wolfe ventures into territory previously explored by the likes of Roy Harper on the delicate yet disturbing In Broad Daylight while Mayflowers ventures further as Wolfe evokes the vocal excursions of Tim Buckley, Scott Walker and John Martyn over a discordant scraping of strings. There’s a stroke of genius here as this challenging listen segues into the pulsating drive of Horses, a song whose title recalls The Doors and Patti Smith and while it doesn’t sound at all like either of them is the album’s one stab at a grand rock feel. A psychodrama indeed it swells and crashes immaculately. Milk Teeth sums up the album with Wolfe’s voice to the fore sounding like an extra wounded Mark Eitzel while the backing plucks at the heartstrings but the album is somewhat let down by the closing songs. A cover of Neil Young’s Don’t Let It bring You Down is a bit of a turbulent sore thumb, elsewhere it would be fine but here it does stick out. The closing Separated By A Smile has wistful and mysterious lyrics delivered in a smoky film noire style but the musical trappings including a muted trumpet take this conceit a step too far.