The Noisettes - What’s The Time Mr Wolf
Matt Harrold 06/02/2007
The Noissettes have gained themselves a bit of a reputation over the last few years as a live act. Thanks in large part to Shingai Shoniwa's mad ball stage presence, think Grace Jones and Karen O after several dozen coffees and your just about reaching the startling levels of her energetic performances. This, along with the talent of guitarist Dan Smith and the animal like pounding of the skins by Jamie Morrison, has led to some sweet support slots with the likes of the mighty Muse and those London oddball charmers the Mystery Jets. The question remains though; does their live performance translate well onto record or are they exposed as talentless hacks, stealing all the best working parts of other acts and trying to make them their own?
What's The Time Mr Wolf shows it to be a case be more of the former then the latter. When it works it works beautifully. A large part has to do with the sheer power and vocal tricks that Shingai Shoniwa can produce. From soft soulful crooning into the ear-splitting wails before descending into soft growls and back again in a blink of the eye, she can lay claim to having one of most distinctive singing voices of the last decade.
Stand out tunes from the album consist of the token acoustic track Count Of Monte Cristo with its gossamer light guitar plucking set over a melody so delicate that it threatens to break apart with each passing second. Sister Rosetta starts out bouncing along with a Stones esque rhythm, before plunging into the cousin of Motorheads' Ace of Spades, proving to be the party piece of the entire album. Don't Give Up starts with guitars scratching deep into the glass before going all traffic lights on your arse, stop-go-stop-go, whilst Shoniwa growls and hollers her through just over two and half minutes of '70s influenced punk rock.
The weaker tracks on the other hand are passable. The chorus to the album's tale of lost passport woe, Bridge to Canada, just feels out of place. Sounding like it was lifted from some college's American football team's cheer leader's chant. Mind The Gap is supposed to be ironically humorous with Shoniwa wheeling out “If you see an unattended package or bag/Don't ignore it. Don't touch it/Alert a police officer or a member of staff”. London Underground are going to glad at the amount of money they're going to save when they start broadcasting Mind the Gap over the tannoys.
You get the feeling that The Noisettes are trying to be clever with their music, but sadly vocals alone don't break boundaries and a lot of the guitar work, whilst tight and reminiscent of Jack White's heavier axe work, doesn't push out much beyond Hendrix or T-Rex. The main gripe here being that the live band they can be isn't entirely transported across to the album. What does make it across though is a competent debut appealing to both the hispters but equally likely to be appreciated by those who are old enough to have seen the older influences play live.