Wolf Alice ‘My Love is Cool’ – Review

9 Jul

Wolf Alice have been hyped to the heavens over the past month, with NME hyperbolically calling ‘My Love Is Cool’ the best debut of the decade, and various other publications breaking out rare 5/5s and 10/10s. But hype is not new to Wolf Alice. I first encountered them two and a half years ago when their debut single ‘Leaving You’ made them ‘the band to keep an eye on in 2013’. But 2013 came and went without much more news from the Band’s camp, except for the single ‘Fluffy’, an intense punk rock song that seemed about as far removed from ‘Leaving You’s quiet contemplation as was possible.

2014 saw the release of more wildly opposed songs; from the upbeat and baggy ‘Bros’, to the gorgeous ballad ‘Blush’ and the grungy ‘Moaning Lisa Smile.’ The only thing that these diverse tracks had in common was the hype that greeted their release. But hype can be healthy; Wolf Alice are passionate and that inspires excitement in a cynical industry that almost discourages it at times. Hype means people are interested and the strange assortment of singles suggested the hype was justified. The question with ‘My Love is Cool’ is how would they align these diverse songs in to a single, cohesive unit and how would they balance established fan favourites with new material?

They don’t satisfyingly answer these questions on ‘My Love is Cool’, an album that is understandably frustrating if you’ve been a fan of the band for a while. They have somewhat overstated their grungy side whilst holding back on some of their best songs (‘White Leather’ and ‘Blush’ are personally missed). I know the argument; these songs are readily available on iTunes if you want them, but the old-fashioned part of me believes that you should put your best material on the album, and they haven’t done that. The appropriately watery ‘Soapy Water’ and the bland album closer ‘The Wonderwhy’ could easily have been replaced and this would have been a much stronger album for it.

Still, I want to review what is on the album as oppose to what isn’t. Even with the notable omissions and the slightly erratic smattering of styles, ‘My Love is Cool’ is indeed one of the best debut albums of the year – if not quite the decade. Its success lies in the irrepressible enthusiasm of the band, and their desire to try their hand at anything and everything, even when the results are shaky. From the slinky indie of ‘You’re a Germ’ to the shoegazing ‘Lisbon’, from Elly’s Lana Del Rey impression on ‘Silk’ to her Hope Sendaval Impression on ‘Turns To Dust’ – the band have all the excitement of children in a fancy dress shop, unsure of which costume to pick.

They have supported the 1975 and Peace and drawn frequent comparisons to The Cranberries and Hole. The fact that this album could appeal to fans of all these bands speaks to its range and depth. You don’t finish the album with a clear sense of the definitive band Wolf Alice will turn in to, but at the same time they have already developed a strong, if slightly Indistinct, voice of their own. That’s mainly down to lead singer Elly’s searching lyricism.

Like Peace, Wolf Alice are unafraid to discuss a range of weighty topics. Unlike Peace, Wolf Alice have the sophistication and subtlety to pull it off. They address depression, anxiety, jealousy, nostalgia, isolation and mortality over the course of an album that never feels content to fall back on clichés. These are issues that will be at the centre of the lives of wolf Alice’s target audience – teenagers – an audience who are used to being patronised or ignored. Wolf alice never do that.

When Elly sings about depression on silk, she demystifies cliches (‘at least your not boring? Nobody wants to feel this sad!’) and pinpoints precise and difficult emotions with astonishing success. Likewise, throughout the album she deals with young love in a way that is anything but predictable; on ‘You’re a germ’ she sings about a predatory older lover in a way that offers no easy judgments and on ‘Lisbon’ she nails the complex feeling of unrequited love with delicious images of ‘smoking your menthols’ and ‘wearing all of your clothes again, they’re wearing thin but it’s one way to be together.’ she lays it on thick at times and occasionally overplays the sentiment but this is another acceptable consequence of that enthusiasm I was talking about earlier.

Unlike most young indie bands on the receiving end of this level of acclaim, you can see a future for Wolf Alice. Previous hyped young things like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Maximo Park, The Drums, the Vaccines etc peaked with their debut album – Wolf Alice have got something here that can be built upon. Not a masterpiece in of itself but the seeds for a future one.

8/10

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