A couple of years ago, Wolfie was a young band -- a group of teenagers, really -- that played lots of gigs in the Midwest and composed punky tunes that were cute and loaded with talent, yet not very emotionally or intellectually revealing. The songs were assembled from jumbled synthesizer parts, an energetic rhythm section, three basic, distorted chords and some "la-la, here we go"-style lyrics. Now a bit older, the Champaign, Illinois, quartet -- composed of Mike Downey, guitar and vocals; Joe Ziemba, guitar, bass and vocals; Amanda Lyons, organ, piano and vocals; and RJ Porter, drums -- has produced an EP that is lyrically earnest and articulate, with a more refined mix of '60s AM radio pop and only a smattering of the punk power chords that were previously its trademark.
Throughout Wolfie, and the Coat and Hat., the bandmembers display a confidence -- and a youthful pride -- missing from last year's Awful Mess Mystery. The first track, "They Call Me Leaves," again finds Wolfie indulging in Pixies-esque guitar work, augmented this time by simpler progressions and steady beats reminiscent of the Zombies. The tune also displays Ziemba's lyrical growth: It's about a young man -- "They all call me Leaves, that's me," he sings -- who sits "all alone on top of my bushy olive tree/That is just like the one my dad climbed as a kid" when confronted with life's problems. "The All Good People," is a tongue-in-cheek knock on the I'm-poor-but-happy-and-ain't-life-grand, patchouli-wearing set: "The all good people/They see a light/Dance 'cause you think that you should." Wolfie sheds all vestiges of punk in favor of pseudo-folk on "Rachel Carson," a Norwegian Wood-style narrative about a girl trying to keep a friend from passing out in her bed.
On previous efforts, Lyons's sporadic organ interludes sounded like a church lady invited to rock out with the kids in the garage band; here, they're a rhythmic component that the melodies rely on. Compounded by generally tighter playing and more focused lyrics, her progressions indicate that Wolfie is almost all grown up and ready to howl.