Few young bands have experienced the amount of anticipation for their debut release as Wolf Alice have encountered. Their first full length release My Love is Cool hits the music market on June 22, 2015. Unlike many young artists who seem to rush to the studio to produce that first LP, Wolf Alice have been savvy taking their time, releasing two EP’s ,a number of tantalizing videos and building a fan base with their live performances. All in preparation for the moment when they would fully display their talents, the moment has now arrived.
Originating in North London, Wolf Alice was formed in 2010 by Ellie Rowsell and Joff Oddie. The quartet was fully fleshed out with the addition of Joel Amey on drums and vocals, Theo Ellis on bass, with Ellie providing vocals and guitar and Joff on lead guitar and vocals. They took their name from a short story of the same name from the book The Bloody Chamber and other Adult Tales by Angela Carter. Initially the band has a folk tinged pop rock orientation, but over time they a developed sound that if it can be categorized at all is “love child of folk and grunge”, or as you will off kilter indie rock. Wolf Alice describe themselves as musical mongrels, a byproduct of the musical explosion on the internet. The band self released 2013 EP Blush to positive reviews, and were signed to Dirty Hit Records based on the EP’s success. May 2014 saw the band release Creature Songs and be awarded the Best Breakthrough Artist at the UK Festival Awards that same year. Their constantly evolving repertoire has prevented the band from being pigeonholed.
Wolf Alice’s ultimate goal has been to pursuit making music that echoes beyond the woods and coastlines of England. They now had their chance to do exactly that when they entered the studio to record My Love is Cool. The band along with producer Mike Crossey entered London’s Wood Green Studios for five weeks starting in November of 2014. They had twenty songs going in and were feeling confident because the songs had been road tested and were fan faves. However only Fluffy and Bros made the cut as they felt the other 18 songs had passed their fresh by date. The band had already proven they had what it took to blow the roof off the building but to their credit on the recording they sensed when to accelerate and when to brake, emphasizing the memorable emotional moments by showing restraint elsewhere. The result is a quartet that displays sophistication well beyond their years.
The release of My Love is Cool is the answer to the nagging question of whether or not the band could deliver on expectations? The ultimate result is an album that is in parts wistfully folksy, beautiful engaging and a stadium anthem guitar rocker. My Love is Cool is a cross pollination of genres and delivers on the promise of all that has come before in Wolf Alice’s short history. The album starts with Turn to Dust a folky floating song that harkens to the vocal stylings of Harriet Wheeler and Delores O Riordan. The track is a head fake for the rest of the album as the band will shapeshift through different genres of which this is just one, an earnest folk song.
The song Bros is a fan favorite that has been reworked for the album. There is sharper production that the original and an added chorus. The song jumps genre as it is a punchy rocker. The subject matter extols the virtues of best friends, who stick it out through bad haircuts and romances. Ellie’s vocals are warmth and heartfelt. It is shimmering track. The subsequent video is also really stellar. Your Loves Whore has an even funkier rock feel, a sensual grunge rocker with banked vocals. The guitars just explode out of the speakers and the utilization of breaks of sudden silence is an effective device. The song owes a hat tip to Garbage and is going to be so amazing live. My thoughts after hearing this one are how lucky the campers are going to be at Park Stage Glastonbury on June 26th around say 5 p.m..
One of the songs that really built anticipation for the release was Moaning Lisa’s Smile. Be warned this song is a total earworm and should come with a warning because you cannot get it out of your head once experienced. The quiet/loud/quiet technique and come hither vocal make for a sonic delight. Hopefully it gets the extensive US radio play it so fully deserves.
You’re a Germ is a song that combines all the best of current Alternative with 90’s Punk Alternative and makes for an oh so delectable brew. Ellie lets loose vocally on this punk tinged effort as she describes the back and forth of a boy and a girl growing up together, foot shuffling as they do and then they don’t and then do again romantically love each other.
One of my favorites of the album is Lisbon which has a “Northwestern Sound” and is an energy laden track. The song expands into a sonic panorama in the 2nd third and bends into the outré as Silk begins with an ambient feel. This song builds and builds with Ellie doing a dead pan vocal. The song takes to task the common nostrums people offer to life’s problems, and questions if they really solve anything. Silk is the sleeper track of the album that you will draw you back time and again.
Frenzy again switches up the genre with a chillwave vibe. The song has a magnificent guitar rift and soaring vocals, making for another addictive song. Frenzy is smooth, engaging and expansive. Another earlier released song from the album is Giant Peach with its memorable video that was in turns funny and accurate in describing the backstage creepiness of the rock music business. Here the song goes for some Lo Fi production as it kicks down the door with its full on rock sound. If you listen closely you can hear the fun the band is having playing this song. Ellie is channeling her inner Courtney Love, when Hole was a going concern.
Then there is Swallowtail, drummer Joel Amey steps out from the kit to perform the vocals on this song. When your drummer can deliver as convincing a performance as what is on display here, you know you have a band with talent to spare. This is a beautiful song harkening to the latest Sufjan Stevens work. It also shows the band has their ego in right proportions to release this on their debut. The song starts off as an acoustic ballad with Joel’s beautiful falsetto and is shimmering and effervescent, then totally rocks out at the end, and it all makes sense. It is the prime example that the band can play it anyway they want and it works. Bravo.
The song Soapy Water switches up genres again, this time into a glichy techno tune as it is joyfully melancholy and displays some apt “Bristol Sound” influences at work, think Portishead meets Massive Attack. Fluffy is the other song that was reworked from its previous release. Fluffy is a great rocker with a slashing The Clash “London Calling” intro, the song is energy filled and has hooks galore. Ellie oscillates between breathy vocals and full tilt knock the paint of the back wall delivery.
The final track The Wonderwhy is a rhythm fest, almost tribal in nature. The song questions what happens when we die. It is a spectacular send off to an amazing debut effort. There is a hidden track at around the 5 minute mark that is a rough demo acoustic where the title of the record is drawn from, “teach me rock and roll … my love is cool.”
My Love is Cool finds a band that is standing on the edge of popular fame and has been able to retain their sense of proportion and playfulness. The album is a perfect amalgam of their prior sonic fingerprints married to the band’s new material and development. Wolf Alice sounds like they are three or four albums into their career instead of just releasing their first long play debut. Almost every great band has the ability to take what has proceeded their incarnation and transform it into their own manifestation. Wolf Alice shows every symptom of becoming one of those bands. Their performance on My Love is Cool shows seamless, effortless rock sophistication. So to answer the question, yes they have delivered on their promise.