Wolfie was an indie pop/twee quartet from Champaign, Illinois. They were part of that really amazing “Champaign scene” of the mid-to-late 1990s, and they were on their hometown label Parasol Records. They founded in 1996, and they put out a boatload of singles and EPs along with three long-playing records before splitting up in 2001.
Joe Ziemba (bass, piano, vocals) and his high school buddy Mike Downey (guitars, vocals) were playing in separate bands for a while, but they decided to join forces, bringing drummer RJ Porter with them to start a band called Slackjawed. Later, they brought in Ziemba’s girlfriend (who would later become his wife) Amanda Lyons (vocals, keyboards), and they renamed the band Wolfie. Two years later, they released their debut album Awful Mess Mystery on Mud Records, which is under the Parasol Records uh… umbrella. Sorry, sorry. Anyway, that first album was pretty well received by critics and audiences. The follow-up, Where’s Wolfie pleased audiences, but managed to really upset a writer at Pitchfork. I read a lot of Pitchfork reviews, and I give Ian Cohen a hard time because the only record he likes is Pinkerton, and he almost never rates anything higher than 7.1. However, I’ve honestly never seen anything like this. Some writer named Brent DiCrescenzo really really hated the album. I’ve seen some low scores before, but this dude gave the album a 0.2. Out of 10. That’s not a typo. Zero point two. I’ve read some bad reviews and seen some records get a 1.0, but this smells like the guy has some personal axe to grind with one or all of the band members. Whatever.
That dude can say what he wants. I really like that band, and I really like that album. They weren’t the most talented band around, but that was when it was en vogue to have only rudimentary navigational skills. Their skill level aside, they sure were a fun band to listen to, and I’m sure they were fun to see live. I loved their records and I loved their label, Parasol Records.
It had been quite a while, however, since I had listened to Wolfie until I stumbled upon one of their songs a couple of weeks ago in a most unusual place. Seriously. Check out that video in the link. After seeing that, I dusted off my old CDs, sent them to the digital library, and here we are.
DiCrescenzo’s criticism wasn’t that they were mediocre musicians. He was only marginally complaining about their song craftsmanship and their dedication to “real” pop music. His chief complaint was that they were just too damn cute. Too twee. He couldn’t stand that, so he trashed the record. And then, at the end of that review, he committed a silly foul. “If you really want good pop music, please go get a Beatles album”. Of course this isn’t a Beatles album or a Beach Boys album or even Pinkerton. It’s a Wolfie record and it’s meant to be more fun than technically brilliant. Maybe I’m just a little bent out of shape because I think he was unfair to a record that I really like, but I just can’t stand it when reviewers implicitly say “This record isn’t Kid A. Therefore, it sucks.”
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll go ahead and get to tonight’s song.
“It’s Thursday, Not Sunday (Thank Goodness)” by Wolfie
I really love the keyboard solo at the top. As rudimentary as it may be, I think it makes the song. It shows up again a few times, and I adore it each time. Although Joe’s singing is a bit harsh, there’s something amazing about the harmonies with Amanda. Especially, that first one right at 0:15. She makes it work. I also love that “Woo!” at 1:15. There’s only one of them, and it’s outstanding.
Listening to this song on headphones, I noticed that the balance is, ironically, Beatles-esque. The right channel is really treble-y while the left is really bass-y. I guess Mr. DiCrescenzo didn’t notice that.
After Wolfie split up, Joe and Amanda formed a different band called The Like Young. They released three records between 2002 and 2006. I’ve never heard any of them. The band, and their marriage, broke up after the last album.
Where’s Wolfie is out of print in CD format, but amazon has a few used copies. Parasol still has LP copies in stock. You can order one here. Do it!