Let’s be honest. Rock and roll is hardly just about the sounds. Allow me to use a bombastic example. Would an incendiary Slash guitar solo sound the same if you didn’t know the guy shredding it was wearing a preposterous top hat and had a cascade of dark curls pouring from beneath it, a cigarette hanging between his lips and a posture that was just way too cool? If your answer is “No, it wouldn’t matter,” you might have no soul. This in mind, the fact that Hinesburg quartet Wolcot still aren’t old enough to drink must count for something. The band’s self-titled debut is heavily influenced by Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, the Smiths and Joy Division, to name a few. For their age, these rockers have digested a remarkable knowledge of the genre.
You can hear strains of those bands in the spidery guitar tapestries Wolcot weave, as they do on opener “Red Chair.” Lead singer/drummer Thomas Keller likes to employ a mixture of J Mascis apathy and just a bit of Ian Curtis sonorousness but still sounds his own age. He and bassist Albert Brown make up a locked-in, skittering, bass-popping rhythm section that skinny-jean-wearing white boys should love — and I mean that in a good way.
In this writer’s day, most high school bands were concerned with pounding out three chords they barely knew while whining like Tom Delonge from Blink 182. On the poppier tracks here, it’s as if Wolcot forwent that whole bratty, pop-punk phase. “Goats and Ghosts” has dark elements of early ’80s post-punk but channels it through the garage of a Hinesburg homestead, managing to make it sound unabashedly upbeat.
Wolcot permit just a few strains of teenage angst. Spiky riffs punctuate tunes such as “Bring You Back From Monday” and “RTS.” When they do rock out, they wield their six strings well. At the climax of “I Saw a Dolphin,” guitarists Garrett Linck and Drew Cooper show their ability to wrench some gutty gulps of feedback from their axes. Throughout it all, however, Keller’s blasé croon is unwavering. His nonchalance gels these 11 cuts.
Despite their icy coolness, Wolcot’s youth shines through. Their sound is an amalgam of many of their favorite bands but lacks a strong identity of its own. But a part of their talent is having such a deep understanding of the underground greats of yore. Wolcot may not know exactly who they are yet, but their references make them seem wise beyond their years.
Wolcot play at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge on Wednesday, July 27, with Cash Is King, Gang of Thieves and Unwound.