More and more, musicians are crossing the border between mediums, from writing music to writing comics. It’s not a very widespread phenomena, but it does occur — in something stronger than a trickle but weaker than a full-on trend. Chances are you know of at least one.
What’s notably less common, however, are musicians writing music about comics.
Sure, you’ll find bands and songs that have been influenced by comics, in one way or another, all over the place — I am appropriately embarrassed to admit that “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down is the first example that comes to mind (ah, the year 2000 — such an innocent time). But a band that puts out an entire album inspired by/about works in the genre? Well, I can only think of one.
The Brooklyn-based three-piece indie outfit — Chris Atkins on guitar, Matt Weitman on drums, and Steph Wolf leading the pack (Get it? I made a wolf pun!) on bass and lead vocals — released their debut album last month.
Villains is 12 tracks of some really excellent music. I know that, as far as lead-ins go, this one falls a touch flat. In my defense, Sister Wolf’s sound is not one that’s easily summed up in a handful of witty words strung together nicely.
There are a few words that do come to mind. Raw. Strong. Gritty. Smooth. Fuzzy. Intense. Emotional. Explosive. Assertive.
The group’s comics influence is readily apparent throughout the lyrics of Villains: Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke in the track “Killing Joke”; Swamp Thing in “Swamp Thing”; Justice League staple Doctor Destiny in “Dr. Destiny”; Batwoman and Alice, her foe from the Batwoman: Elegy storyline, in one of the LP’s standout tracks “Alice”.
Musically, Sister Wolf has drawn from a wealth of inspirations even more varied than those of the lyrics. In Wolf’s vocals — which she serenades, belts, croons, howls, growls, and roars without reservation, equal parts silks and screams — I hear Ida Maria, Samuel Herring (Future Islands), and Jeff Buckley. In the music, I hear Modest Mouse, Muse, Queens of the Stone Age, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Pixies, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Soundgarden, Audioslave, Nirvana, and so many more.
All those influences and not once on this album does Sister Wolf come off as a band if mimics. Drawing from so many different places, this trio has crafted a sound all their own. It’s got distinctly ’90s-era bones, but with no nostalgia. Sister Wolf looks to the past not to replicate it, but to mine it for the future. Villains has no tricks, no gimmicks, pulls no wool over the eyes. It’s just a unique, but true-blooded, rock and roll sound.
Intrigued? You should be.
Villains is available for download for $10 on iTunes or for name-your-price on Bandcamp. If you have trust issues, you can stream the album on Sister Wolf’s site and on SoundCloud. But you can trust Villains — this album will be good to you.