1 July 2015

Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool

(Brief note - Since this was published on 1 July 2015, this album has been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize 2015)

Sometimes you only hear the hype; it is not fair to judge a band by hype or name alone, if that was the case I would be very unkind towards the title of this album from Wolf Alice.  It is not the best title I have ever heard, it sounds like something you would give your first high school band to that first demo to be given to the sweetheart of your dreams.  But I remember once laughing at titles such as 'Weasels Ripped My Flesh', 'White Pony' and 'Nocturama'; now I love those albums (to various degrees of love), so what would I know.... This album is by Wolf Alice who are from North London, UK; they are (as we speak) one of the biggest hype bands in the sceptic isle of green.  Formed in 2010 they have been getting lots of hype via the more commercial channels of NME & the various BBC radio channels.  This is usually a sign for me to run the other way, I just tend to disagree with their opinions as a general rule of thumb; but that cover is a very interesting picture, it is something I would have reviewed under the cover roulette game I tend to play.  So for the first time (I think) I am doing cover roulette with an artist on a major label (duel signed to RCA & Dirty Hit).  Let's see how it sounds....

Starting the album is "Turn To Dust" which has a very ethereal sound to it, you have signing Ellie Rowsell asking the audience to keep their beady eye her so she does not turn to dust.  It is a gentle beginning to the album, not at all what I expected to be honest (although I will also state that as I had not heard the band before, it could have really be anything.  When I heard that these people were alternative rock and post grunge, I was expecting something with a bit of fuzzy guitar if I am honest; I was not expecting something that has a bit of Cocteau Twins, Cranberries and a medieval ministerial telling a tale of woe. It is a very gentle opening to this record, which is followed by "Bros"; this is more what I was thinking about when I read about this album.  The song is a light, summer floating number that will (and has) gone down a storm in their live sets.  It has shoegazing style to it, giving it a drone quality in places that make this sound like it is coming from the heart of a summers' day and that everything is encompassed in a little dream. This version is a re-recording of a previously released single and it is an obvious single as well, but that is not a criticism of the number; it is just one of those songs that naturally lend itself to being a lead song to advertise the album, to get the public interest - plus, it is really good as well.  The third track is called "Your Loves Whore" which finally finds that fuzzy peddle that I have been itching to hear mixed in with the band's shoegazing sound.  For all the stop start drumming (which takes a while to get used to if I am honest), there is a delicate number on show here which wants to know what is coming around the corner.  It is something that all humans can relate to; but it is great to hear these sentiments mixed into one of the best pieces of indie rock that I have heard out of the current crop of raising stars - for this track alone, I can actually see what the hype is all about.  Now in the USA, the fourth track is called "Moaning Lisa Smile" which is a heavier number what has gone before on this record and it really does take the Post Grunge sound to its limits and makes a great piece of noise.  Sadly for the rest of the world, it is not on the album and this does suck big balls - but there is always the original version on the 'Creature Songs EP' for the rest of us.

So (just to confused people in some ways), the fourth track for the rest of the world is called "You're A Gem".  It starts with a quiet duet of female and male vocals which give way to an alternative rock noise that sounds both new and familiar instantly, the world is not being reinvented - it is just being re-discovered.  It is really refreshing to hear people actually pissed off and not sounding all polished and shiny as well.  "Lisbon" is the next track which has more dream-sphere vocals and another wall of fuzzy feedback in places, it takes a few spins to shows its charms if I am honest and even then it does not feel as well crafted as "Your Loves Whore" or "You're A Gem".  There is a rough edge that  whilst sounding refreshingly different in these times, it feels that it is in the demo form and might change as times move forward.   With the sound of the void and a strong bass line, "Silk" is a different number on this album.  It has a strong minimal beginning, it then almost sinks into a number that reminds me of M.I.A. and that took a lot of getting used to at first, but once I realised that the mixing of styles was not a contrast at all then the song took a new life for me.  There is real beauty in this number and this tale of wishing for protection and love really makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end towards the end of the number.  That build towards the peak/euphoric moment is a true gem on this record, it is truly a highlight on this release.  However it is followed by "Freazy" which is much like "Lisbon", it does not quiet feel complete and it is lacking something.  It might be because it followed on after the gigantic "Silk", but it does not rest easy enough on these ears to truly make any other impression to me than a song that feels like a demo.  It should nice enough, but it also misses that charm which is this band's calling card and it is truly missed here.

Next is "Giant Peach" which is another song that has been a single previously picked off this album; it is the track which (for want of a better work) rocks the most as well, it has a lot in common with the sound of The Joy Formidable and Slowdive for this listener.  Once more, it shows that the band have more than one speed to their arsenal and it really does give this album a much needed shot in the arm.  "Swallowtail" features the lead vocals of one of the male members of the band - I would love to tell you which one of the boys it is, but I cannot find who gave the vocal performance on this number.  It deliberatly takes its time on this number, it is not an instant fix for the listener and if you are not patient with it then it might pass you by; but these would be such a shame as it is truly worth the effort.  It even lets it all rip towards the ending of the number, with the change of gear not taking anything away from the slow pace of most of the song but it adds another shade to a beautiful piece of music.  Depending where you are from, the next number is either the eleventh or twelve song of the album and is called "Soapy Water", it starts with a slowed down feedback which comes into focus and it comes into its own with a dream stance that sounds heavier than a lot of the album, but as light as a feather.  To get a dynamic which sounds heavy and light in the same note, not at different times but in the same note is something very difficult and I love this number - it is not my song of the album, but it still makes the hairs on my neck stand long after it is finished.  The next song is called “Fluffy” which is sounds as if it was wrote grunge was more than just a fashion style, to say it has a retro style is also an unfair view as well.  It feels more timeless if I am honest and whilst it could have easily been from that early 1990’s era when alternative music ran the world, it just feels as much at home in the bright lights of 2015.  Ending the album is the track “The Wonderwhy”; this sombre tale about the afterlife and being left behind is set to another atmospheric piece of music that gets under the skin – even the nursery rhyme ending to a electronic drum pattern that falls quiet for a few moments and the strumming of a guitar comes back to the listener.  It is a gentle hidden track which ends the album on a fragile note.

So how does this album stand up to the wave of hype?  Well as far as a debut album goes, it is not the perfect release that has been hailed in some quarters; some songs feel a little unfinished and in need of further work.  But it is far from a disaster in terms of quality, these guys are just young kids who have just really started their journey in music and whilst they may have release some quality Eps and have labels/radio behind them they are still finding their feet.  You have a lot of tunes on here which are some of the most interesting music I have heard from the mainstream for a long time; I like it a lot, but I am not quite in love with it.  This might change with time, but I will also defend it as well; it is not below the radar so it is not for the underground (which is where a lot of criticism is come from - get over it hipsters, it is not for you).  Now the mark might seem a little low, but for me it is the right mark as it does not quite have my heart; but they certainly have my interest and they are an act I will be following with interest.

7.5 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Top track - Silk

You can purchase "My Love Is Cool" on Amazon here

You can visit the Wolf Alice website here

You can follow their activity on Facebook here

You can hear some of their tunes on their Soundcloud page here

You can stream the album on Spotify here

You can stream the album on Deezer here

You can stream the album on Tidal here

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