The Noisettes’ What’s The Time Mr. Wolf? is both the freshest and the most derivative record I’ve heard in a long time. Singer Shingai Shoniwa looks like Grace Jones and sings like Billie Holiday—that is, if Billie Holiday shot crystal meth and not horse. The other two ‘ettes (both male, by the way) fly through anthemic, hysterical rock with a bluesy punch; if that sounds a little White Stripes-y, bear in mind that guitarist Dan Smith is not above lifting a riff straight from a Pixies song (“IWE”) and drummer Jamie Morrisson can switch time signatures as quickly as it takes Meg White to remember the difference between the floor tom and the kick drum.
To listen to Mr. Wolf is to enjoy it, and to enjoy it is to be wistfully reminded of better days and albums. But tracing Mr. Wolf‘s influences is like playing the Paul’s Boutique spot-the-sample drinking game my buddies and I invented: “Cannot Even (Break Free)” cops licks from AC/DC’s “Go Down” and there are echoes of various gospel and jazz standards throughout. You’ve heard this all before, but when’s the last time listening to a record felt so much like you were competitively getting drunk with your friends?
As exciting and driven as Mr. Wolf is, you keep wondering if the Noisettes are one of those bands that you’ve just “got to see live.” Opener “Don’t Give Up” pops like an M-80 when it should explode like a WMD, and though there are sparks of genius, particularly on the surprisingly pretty hidden track “Never Fall In Love Again,” the band rarely crafts a song as effectively or enthusiastically as they strut and squeal. But of all the flashy, NME picks of the week (The Bravery, The Killers, any band with Pete Doherty), the Noisettes have the highest substance-to-style ratio. If that sounds like too backhanded a compliment, remember that a band whose front-lady looks like Grace Jones and sounds like a tweaking Billie Holiday has got style to burn.