The Wolfhounds

Hands in the Till: The Complete John Peel Sessions

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In the three-year span of 1986 to 1989, the Wolfhounds released a series of fine singles and a strong album, Unseen Ripples from a Pebble. Their two-guitar attack was scrappy and angular, with bass and drums dashing around in the back and singer David Callahan shouting and cajoling at the front. Place them in between the cheerful jangle of Orange Juice and the hardscrabble noise of Fire Engines, then add some Gang of Four politics to the mix and you'll be close. While their albums have begun to be reissued and there have been singles collections made, the group's three Peel Sessions recorded at the time haven't been collected. Slumberland and A Turntable Friend took up the task, and the excellent Hands in the Till: The Complete John Peel Sessions is the result of their efforts. Hearing the band stripped of any studio sound and just playing the stuffing out of a batch of angry, snappy, and urgent tracks is inspiring. The Wolfhounds sound fired up and ready to set the radio ablaze as they whip through classics like the almost poppy "The Anti-Midas Touch" and the spiraling and intense "Me" from their first session in early 1986. They sound a little tougher and more controlled on the hard-charging rocker "Boyracer RM1" and the jumpy "Rule of Thumb" from a mid-1987 appearance. When the Wolfhounds returned in early 1988, they still had the fire but their guitars were weightier and Callahan crooned almost as much as he shouted. It's fascinating to chart their progress as a band through their sessions, just as much as it is exciting to hear them play the songs with so much energy and passion. The Wolfhounds don't always get the same level of adoration as some of their contemporaries -- maybe because they held on for so long -- but this collection proves that they deserve any praise that makes it their way. Hands in the Till is the best kind of archival artifact; it provides education and thrills in equal amounts.

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