Wolf Alice first turned heads over two years ago and have since released a couple of singles and a couple of EP's whilst slowly developing and readying their debut album. One of these singles, 'Bros' was my song of the year back in 2013, so to say I've been looking forward to this album for a while is something of an understatement. So here it is and has it been worth the wait?
Their sound has developed and they have more variety than maybe the early recordings suggest, but then there always was a folky, indie, gothic vein (i.e., varied) to their sound, and this is ably illustrated by opening track 'Turn To Dust', it’s melodic with a touch of All About Eve vs Pink Floyd but very modern sounding, lyrically oblique, the sweetly cooed ‘Keep your beady eyes on me’ leads into a song of fear and uncertainty. From this straight into a new version of 'Bros', a modern Brit pop indie anthem already. You can't ruin a classic, however I firmly prefer the original two year old single version by a country mile. The song is a seemingly life affirming song about precious friendships, but there was always an undercurrent to the words, ‘Oh jump at 43, are you wild like me?’, and this is now reflected in the musical arrangement that comes with it. The original was simply cleaner, more classic and more uplifting. It is still a great song though. 'Your Loves Whore' is great sweet guitar based pop song about jumping in and finding lasting devotion. It's followed by 'You're A Germ' a much grungier dirty rock song, possibly about a leery old rocker leading a school age groupie up the wrong path? It has a great shouty/sweary chorus and it's one of my favourite songs on here.
'Lisbon' mixes the melodic with a harder noisy undercurrent and another dark lyric of fear and death. By now the decision to take their time over the debut album (you only get one chance at your first album the band offer) is clearly paying off. This is a collection of timeless genre defying modern rock. 'Lisbon' runs effortlessly into 'Silk', an esoteric floating mood piece that builds into a tight anthemic treat with a great vocal arrangement and another tale of the good and the bad in relationships, no gain without pain. 'Freazy' kicks off the second half off the album, perhaps the most straightforward pop moment on here yet, a song driven by a simple drum pattern with intertwining bass lines. Then comes ‘Giant Peach’, first heard earlier this year as the slow build up to the album began. A more guitar driven track with a moody downbeat lyric, a tale of struggling to leave the past behind and embrace the doubt an unknown future. 'Swallowtail' is a track that stands apart from the album in a number of ways. The lead vocal comes not from front person Ellie Rowsell but from drummer Joel Amey. It sounds almost like a different band, but then that's part of what the band try to be, undefinable, multi-faceted and many faced. And they do it pretty successfully too.
As if to prove this 'Soapy Water' arrives with yet another different sound, a gentle floating balletic pop sound again though it’s a song of fear, doubt and hiding feelings. 'Fluffy' was the band’s first physical release in 2013 and also reappears here. A more typically indie sounding guitar track it has focus and drive and its return is most welcome; like ‘Giant Peach’ it’s another song about leaving childhood and the town you grew up in behind. Last track proper 'The Wonderwhy' has echoes of Bjork’s Sugarcubes, a slow building medium paced ‘what’s the meaning of life’ rock song with interwoven vocal parts, and leads into one of those 'hidden track' moments, an under produced demo sounding guitar and vocal fragment of a song possibly called 'My Love Is Cool'. It's short and unfinished but finishes the album off as proper full stop.
So then, Wolf Alice have achieved a memorable debut album, shot through with quality and variety. It's not gonna hit Arctic Monkeys/Oasis levels of debut album sales, a shame really as I feel it's just as deserving, but the music business simply doesn't operate in that way anymore. But this album is a success, I urge you to check out what's available of the bands earlier releases (use Deezer, iTunes and YouTube) while you still can. In fact move quickly and HMV are offering an exclusive edition with a first CD release of last years 'Creature Comforts' EP. But mainly, check out this fine, memorable debut album in whatever way you can. As the band say, you only get one shot at your debut LP so don’t screw up. Well that’s mission accomplished then.