WU LYF ‘Go Tell Fire to the Mountain’ – Review

1 Jul

It’s quite common for albums to arrive with lots of baggage, baggage that is hard to avoid when reviewing the album. But debuts are usually, and thankfully, baggage free – not ‘Go Tell Fire to the Mountain’ by WU LYF. You can see the appeal of concentrating on WU LYF’s fascinating rise to cult popularity, and their story is a large part of the band’s charm, however It bothers me that reviewers and commentators have allowed themselves to be so completely distracted by everything but the music when discussing WU Lyf; once I heard the album everything else I knew became, if not irrelevant, then certainly a lot less relevent. This is a powerful debut album that doesn’t really need to be put into context and shouldn’t be weighed down by any baggage.

Therefore I’m not going to give you the band’s back story as such; needles to say WU Lyf are a mysterious bunch of Mancunians who don’t do things by the book when it comes to promoting themselves. Wiki them if you want to find out more; or see countless other reviews. As people they clearly know what they want and musically they are equally uncompromising and determined; they don’t sound like anyone else out there. The most distinctive feature of the group is the singer’s primal and frankly terrifying voice which squawks out lyrics in a completely animatistic way. He has the kind of voice that makes it impossible to pick out lyrics, so if you want to sing along you are forced to make up your own (often nonsensical) words, based on what it sounds like he’s singing; one day they will have a great misheard lyrics youtube video. The amazing thing is that he’s still able to convey so much emotion with his unique voice and it helps that when, (on the odd occasion) his lyrics are clearly delivered, they are chant worthy. The anthemic opening track ‘LYF’ is largely undecipherable, but towards the end the line ‘I love you forever’ is repeated until there is no doubt of the song’s message. It’s music for the masses.

And music for mass; ‘Go Tell Fire to the Mountain’ was recorded in a church, with a proper organ, and as a result the album sounds absolutely massive. The reverb soaked organ is just as distinctive as the vocals and it gives the record a sombre atmosphere that is unusual for indie music. At the same time it is musically and thematically euphoric; in fact the album has a supposed concept about some kind of worker revolution, which the band discuss in more detail over on their website. Tribal drumming and lots of symbol crashes accompany the organ and whilst you would think those two extremes wouldn’t work together, they completely do, especially on the more upbeat numbers like ‘Dirt’ and ‘Spitting Blood’. Occasionally WU LYF’s bombastic stylings feel a bit over the top and a bit more light and shade would be welcome, especially as the songs get longer towards the end of the album. And if I had one big complaint it would be that there all the songs kind of sound the same: I’ve been listening to the album for a couple of weeks now and it is still difficult for me to remember which song is which.

Of course by not playing the game, by avoiding hype at all costs, by not talking to the press and by not signing to a label etc, WU LYF have done the exact opposite of what they wanted to; the hype has simply increased, and this could have distracted from the music – but I don’t think it has. ‘Go Tell Fire to the Mountain’ sounds different to anything else out there but at the same time it’s a pure and uncomplicated delight to listen to. I don’t think it’s a perfect debut by any stretch of the imagination, but at least it’s an original one, and it’s refreshing to see a band try something totally different and be not be afraid of the reception they receive. This is a triumph.

7.5/10

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