A few years ago, I had the privilege of hearing J. F. Oakes perform live a then-new original tune called “Wolf in a Suit,” and ever since, I have been eagerly awaiting the release an official studio version. Well, Oakes’s new album, 10 Years and an Acorn, dropped worldwide this past Tuesday, and “Wolf” is on tap! For me, Oakes is at his best in the country/folk range. He’s a masterclass in lyrical orchestration of “folksy” wit (look at “Road Less Traveled” from Acknowledge the Corn), and working in that down-home genre sweet spot allows him full liberty to explore those comedic sensibilities—an exploration which may have reached its apex with “Wolf in a Suit.” Like “Road,” and also its album-mate “Can’t Go Back,” “Wolf” sports a plethora of idiomatic expressions, packaged to rhyme and painting a complete picture, which is, in this case, an unflattering portrait of the type of two-faced, narcissistic, no-good, four-flusher that most, if not all, of us have had the displeasure of knowing. But just to clarify, it’s an extremely humorous send-up of “that type,” and Oakes is clearly having a figurative ball lambasting characters of that ilk. His voice is loose and free, and random vocal ad libs in the background only add to the fun. The instrumentation, too, complements the vibe, punctuating the quirky jokiness of the affair with equally idiosyncratic stylings. The slide guitar in particular seems to be “commenting” on the topic throughout the engagement. Being chock full of easy-going, “everyman” witticisms and catchy “as all get out,” the tune is highly reminiscent of the best of Roger Miller’s work (“Dang Me,” anyone?), and I don’t think I can bestow a higher compliment on a funny, sing-along ditty.
Receiving its first proper release on Jet’s 2003 debut Get Born, “Move On” is a country/folk ballad a bit out of place on a record otherwise comprising in-your-face rock ’n’ roll and Beatles-inspired pop/rock. But that isn’t to say the song is anything less than exceptional. The tune opens with slide guitar work, processed to sound like it’s playing through an old phonograph (a la Pink Floyd’s “Wish you Were Here”), but soon drops the effect and slide for crisp, acoustic folk stylings. Drummer Chris Cester, brother of regular lead singer Nic, takes vocal duties here, providing an appropriately rough, deep crooning for the pensive first verse: Well I’ve been thinkin’ ’bout the future I’m too young to pretend It’s such a waste to always look behind you You should be lookin’ straight ahead Brother Nic (or it could be Chris himself overdubbed; neither the liner notes nor Google had definitive answers) and a tambourine join on the chorus for beautiful harmonies and percussive effects respectively. The slide returns next for a brief interlude between chorus and verse 2—the best lyrics in the song: 10:34 Flinders Street Station I’m lookin’ down the tracks A uniformed man askin’ am I paid up Now why would I wanna be that? Chorus 2 adds another two lines and slightly changes the chord progression on line four, adding an Am for a sadder feel on the second go round. Then, a rockin’ (though with only acoustic guitar, tame electric, harmonica, and tambourine) bridge ensues, with Chris’s voice sounding more like brother Nic’s screamy-ness (Is it secretly Nic doing his best Chris impersonation?) and channeling quite a bit of Mick Jagger in the process. Repeat chorus 2 and end on a musical note of hopefulness with a Gmaj strum. Though the lyrics are vague and far from groundbreaking, their ambiguity makes them extremely accessible, and they’re perfectly matched with the Dylan-esque music—proof that the Aussie rock ’n’ rollers are more than one- or two-trick ponies.