February 7, 2023

Dutch psychedelic rockers DeWolff have always been defiantly retro. With their power trio format, vintage instrument sounds and equally vintage influences, they have been churning out the albums at an average rate of one per year since their first appearance as teenagers in 2007. Jon Lord-style organ solos vie with hard-rocking rhythms and guitar solos, and in all that time, they have always been, clearly and unequivocally, a rock band. This new release took me by surprise therefore, because with the addition of female harmony vocals and a horn section, they have taken a sideways step into funk-soul territory – the insistence on using sounds that pre-date the ‘70s is still there, but with Love, Death & In Between, they now straddle a wide line that encompasses both early Deep Purple and James Brown. And is that a bad thing? Hell no, this is a great album. Funk-soul-rock has been a successful niche for bands such as JJ Grey & Mofro and The Dan Reed Network, not to mention artists such as Roachford and Lenny Kravitz, but none of these is as aggressively old-school as DeWolff, and the sound is all their own.

A cheering crowd accompanies the opening of the first number, which is presented as if live, with front man Pablo van de Poel demanding to know, “Are you ready for the Night Train?” a couple of times, before they launch into the rockiest number of the set. And what an opener it is, with the big, crunchy guitar riff, and the backing vocals and horns taking centre stage from the start. This is followed by the groovy soul of Heart Stopping Kinda Show, a which is also the lead single from the album, and can be viewed at the foot of this page.

The pace slows a little further with Will o’ The Wisp, a minor key bluesy lament with phased electric piano, and featuring a sweet bit of guitar work. One could be forgiven for thinking that opening number is going to be the only true rocker in the set, as the unashamed lullaby of Jackie Go To Sleep starts in with jazzy theatre organ, and a tasteful guitar solo with a flavour of Carlos Santana. Suddenly though, they go full prog, with the 16 minute epic Rosita. It starts innocuously enough, as hippy folk-pop with the lead vocals sung in harmony. But just before 2½ minutes, it mutates into a chugging rock rhythm, then morphs in and out of various changes, including a strident James Brown-style soul blues – then at eight minutes we are suddenly into a full-on, up-tempo, bongo-backed glam disco dance party, which rocks like the blazes. They cover all bases by inserting an organ-backed slow blues section in triplet time, before it finishes on another party finale, which should have glitter pouring out of the ceiling. It’s brilliant stuff.

I know the band is a white Dutch trio, but I found it almost impossible not to see something like Parliament Funkadelic in my mind, complete with mirror shades and jackets with lapels like aeroplane wings. The illusion is strengthened by the following track, Mr. Garbage Man – a slow blues about being arrested, standard fare for social comment regarding the infamous ‘sus’ laws that drew special attention in the ‘70s. Another great highlight is the groovy funk rock of Wontcha Wontcha, which modulates to an up-tempo Latino rock number at three minutes, adding elements of the Blues Brothers, some panning lead guitar and tight riffage, ending on an uncontrolled feedback guitar note. To prove that they can do pretty much anything they turn their hand to, Message For My Baby includes a wailing sax solo, Pure Love is a slow waltz, and Queen Of Space And Time is an ambiently-reverbed ballad with a maraca backing.

For my money, this is the best thing I have heard from DeWolff, and double-vinyl length at well over an hour. The whole thing is recorded purely analogue, direct to tape, as determinedly old-school as you can get; Pablo’s high singing voice recalls Burke Shelley from vintage rockers Budgie. How they manage to spread themselves amongst every genre known to man, while at the same time limiting themselves to such a retro sound is beyond me. It’s a heady combination though. Check it out, you can’t miss.