To assume the artist Sea Wolf is any bit comparable to the likes of an actual wolf would simply be wrong. Just as the word "wolf" is embedded in the title, the name might imply a sort of danger, a rather inconsistent disposition, if I may presume to state. The "rock" part of Sea Wolf's indie-rock classification should imply a sense of edginess; yet this is modestly muted here in Boston, at The Paradise Rock Club. All the sweet swagger and flair of an alternative rock show was traded in for the "I'll have your daughter home by nine" sensation.
Maybe it's front man Alex Brown Church's (for God's sake, can we just cut out his middle name?) pack mentality that keeps him playing the Monkees to Benjamin Gibbard to the Beatles. He clearly cannot run on his own as the alpha male. Where Church may fall short in stage dominance, he makes up for it with sheer verisimilitude with a sound something like a poor man's Arcade Fire. It is safe to say Sea Wolf is lacking an all-around presence. He is lacking versatility throughout the whole album, White Water, What Blooms (and for that matter each album preceding it).
Upon first listening to Sea Wolf, each album in its entirety to be exact, I felt someone forgot to turn off the cruise control. Each song just seems to blend right into the next. Nothing changes from song to song, nor does it differ even after switching down the line of albums. Maybe it's his suburban upbringing, having grown up in LA. Nothing about any of this preconceived information strikes me as rags to indie rock glorification. Call me a hard-ass, but I believe these kids should have to work for it. Indie is not a title to be thrown into the back pockets of every musician with a guitar, and a semi-understanding of its melodic power.
I was really hoping that seeing him live would change my opinion, but alas, my opinion is nothing different from that of the album review. Although for a Tuesday night, The Paradise had quite a showing of people. The local radio station WERS 88.9FM (Emerson College), had put together a lineup of Sara Lov and Port O’ Brien with Sea Wolf to headline. Although I was there reviewing Sea Wolf, the only act that left me walking away with any sense of satisfaction would be Port O'Brien. They performed the way I had wished Alex Brown Church could have — lively and communicative with the audience, energetic and downright hardcore in their efforts, I was sincerely pleased.
The band accompanying Church had their act together, which I believe is the only thing that upheld his performance. His energy was lacking, even on the ‘brighter’ songs, such as “O’Maria” (which may have been loudest of them all). You still don’t get to see all he has to offer. I know his rockability is in there, somewhere… his shyness and boyish charm just seem to have a great way of covering it up. Another close favorite off of White Water, White Blooms would be his performance of “Orion & Dog.” The lyrics make this one genuine if only because for once it feels like he finally has something to say, and in effort actually makes you believe it.
All things considered, Church is fairly new to the scene, a sophomore at best. It would be proper of me to state that he still has some kinks to work out. Hopefully time will help him in finding himself and his own personal musical style. But if anything is to change, the vocals need to be kicked it up a notch. The auto-pilot alternative hush is clearly not working in his favor.