Amon Düül II's fifth studio album is a more conventional recording than most, though there's still a lot of the involved experimenting and dark undercurrent which sets the band apart from the mainstream, along with the off-kilter hooks and odd humor which saved them from being lumped alongside more serious (and less easy to take seriously) prog rock outfits. After the lengthy explorations of Tanz der Lemminge
, Wolf City
seems targeted to an extent at a commercial English-speaking audience, perhaps reflective of their increased status in the United Kingdom, if not in America. Regardless, opening song "Surrounded by the Stars," the longest track on the album at just under eight minutes, is also one of the band's best, with strong vocals from Renate Knaup-Kroetenschwanz
, a dramatic building verse (complete with mock choir), an equally dramatic violin-accompanied instrumental break, and a catchy chorus leading to a fun little freakout. Knaup
actually takes the lead vocals more often this time out and turns in some lovely performances, as on the beautiful, perhaps slightly precious "Green-Bubble-Raincoated-Man," with a great full-band performance that grows from a nice restraint to a slam-bang, epic rockout. Lothar Meid
gets his moments in as well, his sometimes straightforward, sometimes not-so-much vocals adding to the overall effect as before. The one full instrumental, "Wie der Wind am Ende Einer Strasse," is excellent, with guest Indian musicians adding extra instrumentation to an intoxicating, spacious performance. While Wolf City
generally sounds like a tight band playing things live or near-live, there are some equally gripping moments clearly resulting from studio work, like the strange loop opening the title track (percussion, guitar?). Concluding with the groovy good-time "Sleepwalker's Timeless Bridge," including some fantastic E-Bow guitar work, Wolf City
works the balance between art and accessibility and does so with resounding success.