Over the years, the UK has seen an abundance of young indie rock bands trying to break into the mainstream and hoping to be the next big thing since Arctic Monkeys. A handful of bands recently gaining popularity have managed to break this formula and give British indie rock a unique twist: Wolf Alice is one of these bands. They’ve been taking the UK by storm, first by building a solid fanbase, then releasing 2 EP’s, and this summer putting out their debut album, My Love Is Cool, which charted at #2 in the UK. The rest of the world is sure to follow, since the album is an impressive musical journey from delicate folk to dreamy shoegaze and heavy grunge that will linger on for a long time.
“Keep your beady eyes on me, to make sure I don’t turn to dust” frontwoman Ellie Rowsell sings on opening track Turn To Dust in a way that is sure to give you the chills and make you excited to hear more. Rowsell starts out modestly, with her lyrics delivered in a delicate and haunting way that’s captivating from the start. It’s a soft opener, with intricate guitar riffs spun like a spider’s web to create a dreamy atmosphere that’s typical for the album as a whole and never really leaves.
Single Bros is much more upbeat and catchy, showing a more lighthearted side early on. Rowsell describes imagery of careless times spent with a best friend by her side. Lyrics like, “Remember when we cut our hair? We both looked like boys but we didn’t care” are enough to make anyone feel nostalgic and are sure to put a smile on your face. Put this song on your summer playlist and sing along with a friend in the car, and you probably won’t regret it. The delay and reverb on the guitars is strong again like most songs on the record, taking you to places far away.
It isn’t until the fantastic You’re A Germ that the band really lets loose. The song starts out slow, with soft verses accompanied by a thumping beat and rhythm guitars. Heavy guitars make an entrance, ultimately leading to the explosive choruses with Ellie shouting, “where’s Mum and Dad so you can tell them you’re a dodgy fucker as well!” expressing her frustration about a certain boy called George. The song is great fun and has been a huge hit at live performances due to the energy that it radiates across the crowd.
Mental health and depression have always been popular topics for many artists over the course of history, but it takes guts and talent to write about these matters in the way that Wolf Alice do on Silk. Whereas depression is often glorified and seen as “interesting” in modern society, Rowsell sings, “at least you’re not boring” and, “no one wants to feel sad” whilst simultaneously giving us a glimpse into her troubled mind and addressing the ghosts of her past. It’s one of the most heart wrenching songs on the album, and a definite highlight.
Working with producer Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, The 1975) proved to be great match: My Love Is Cool is like a wall of sound, a musical experience that is overwhelming and intense but somehow still feels intimate. Every layer is perfectly distinguishable from the other, creating an incredibly dynamic record. As unpredictable as Rowsell’s vocal delivery and melodies are the instrumentation on the record. There isn’t a dull moment on My Love is Cool, from sudden breaks and sequence changes to heavy distortion and haunting harmonies; the only constant seems to be the soaring guitars reminiscent of bands like Slowdive, capturing the early 90’s shoegaze vibe perfectly and wailing through the record like a red thread.
It’s clear that Wolf Alice aren’t in it to make it big; they don’t want to be the next big anything. They are simply a bunch of incredibly gifted musicians that happen to have made one of the best debut albums in recent memories. Folk, pop, grunge and dreamy guitars come together on this work of art, sounding like bands from the 90’s while also capturing the catchy pop vibes of American colleagues Haim. Above all, they are Wolf Alice and My Love Is Cool is guaranteed to end up high on many album of the year lists. Nick Heineman
Watch the video for Bros below