Every Thought Directs The Show
More often than not, simplicity has the power to move us in unimaginable ways. For one, it’s clear. It’s natural. It’s affectionate in its arrangement, and above all, it’s honest. To The Adventure is an album entirely mindful of its voice. The way it speaks without pretence. The way it soothes through the motions of love, life, death, and growth. A voice bold enough to guide us through the vulnerabilities of what is means to be human.
For two years, Richard Oldfield (vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica) and Gavin van den Berg (vocals, guitar, piano, keys, ukulele, percussion) experimented with sounds in a garage, searching for the accent that they would dub To the Adventure. When 2014 came, the duo turned into a six piece band with added members: David Grevler (bass), Adrian Erasmus (guitar), Gavin Flaks (drums), and Jacques du Plessis (keys, percussion). They decided on calling themselves ‘Lunatic Wolf’ for its short and catchy flare, took their contemporary folk-rock to the chambers of High Seas Studios, and with the help of Jacques du Plessis (Wrestlerish, Desmond & the Tutus, Shortstraw) produced the monumental debut that is To The Adventure.
“Sure as Hell” introduces the album with wistful piano chords, and like waves lapping on a shore, a sense of longing pervades. Gavin’s voice joins the piano and sets the scene for the journey. Look at the horizon / It’s coming straight for us / Round up the oxygen / For us / Cause maybe we will need it / Sure as hell we will need it. From that verse alone, it’s clear that the band is making preparations, and we should too. A catchy traveller’s anthem follows and the mood instantly changes to an eager undertaking. The song turns into an account of an individual who is unable to return to the start. Who, in fact, has little to no hope for the start. There is no turning back he seems to say, but he is not without hope as he proclaims: In this life / You will fail to see all sides / But you won’t be alone.
“The Tallest Tree” is a coming of age testimony. A reflection on the innocence of youth and how it dissipates as life moulds us into maturity. Why did this happen / How did I grow so tall / It’s hard to take back what’s taken / So long to form. The song revisits childhood joys although it seems to fade with every passing season. In short, it’s about the fear of growing old. I used to sit here and swing here / But now it seems too tall / I guess I could do it / But I feel that I may fall. However frightening that may seem, there is a good tiding hidden between the lines. Don’t let go of who you are. Trust in the wind to set [yourself]straight again.
“Please Don’t” is my favourite track on the album. I fell for it immediately after listening to the first verse. It wastes no time setting up a situation that those who dabble in Dutch courage are all too familiar with. Please don’t tell me that I’ve got charisma / When all my money has gone / It doesn’t take me seeing my bent shadow / To know, to know that I’ve gone. What follows is a drunkard’s conversation with a lover, and it becomes clear that he’s selfish. He’s afraid of being alone. He traps her with an affectionate gesture yet pleads for her to look away. In his debauchery he realises, sooner than later, that he lays claim to things that don’t belong to him. I am a thief watching my neighbour be / A thief by nurture.
The band joins in with a wailing chorus, carried by the steady beat of clapping hands. The mood is exalted. The man is drunk. The tongue is free. And he, without shame, professes: I’ll never stop / Can’t push this feeling / Not all is said and done / I’ll never stop / Forever feeding / You’re my aqualung. After such a bold assertion he fades away into the lull of guitars and his voice is heard no more.
Lunatic Wolf have created an album rich in song and melody, woven together with various instruments and mesmerising undertones. To say that To The Adventure is unique is an understatement. It’s an honest account of a transition into maturity and may be aptly defined as a musical bildungsroman – a novel where every thought directs the show.