There is a tendency amongst new bands in the hype machine to rush their debut albums, perhaps in fear that audiences will lose taste for them, marking an end to their promising careers all too soon. Unfortunately this often leads to debut albums that are somewhat ‘samey’, and in all honesty, a bit crap.
Wolf Alice have done no such thing however, taking their time and producing a debut album that is masterful in its handle of such a variety of sound that it’s impossible to put a finger on exactly what the London quartet ‘are’. Therein lies the secret to their unbridled success, making My Love Is Cool not only one of the best debut albums in recent years, but also a sensational album in its own right, irrespective of being a debut.
Upon initial inspection of the track list, those who are already Wolf Alice fans may be astounded at the songs which haven’t made the cut for the album, which notably include the punchy “Moaning Lisa Smile” along with “Blush“, both of which helped the band garner the attention of critics and casual listeners alike. It was no forgetful mistake though, and the exclusion of such strong songs speaks volumes about the quality of those that actually were selected by Ellie Rowsell (vocals/guitar), Joff Oddie (lead guitar/backing vocals), Theo Ellis (bass), Joel Amey (drums), and producer Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Jake Bugg).
The true appeal of the album, and indeed of Wolf Alice, is its ability to dance around genres with masterful ease, never truly planting its feet on firm ground. Fairy tale opener “Turn To Dust” for example, could easily have been written by a different band to the one stomping “1! 2! 3! 4! 5! 6! 7! / You won’t go to heaven” on “You’re A Germ“. All the while, each of the 12 songs somehow maintains a sound that is, in essence, very distinctly Wolf Alice.
Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell is no doubt responsible for much of the album’s spontaneous U-turns, already marking herself as one of the most versatile vocalists currently on the scene. She lures you in with her heart-felt elegance “when she sleeps she hears the blues / in shades of black and white” on “Silk“, only to cast you aback on “Giant Peach” screeching in amidst the Sabbath-esque raucous mustered up by the rest of the band. Equally, the riotous fan favourite “Fluffy” is a welcome addition to the album and is perhaps closest to epitomizing the album as a whole, while also showcasing arguably some of the best lyrics, “I’m not looking for no love affair / I’d sell you my soul just to get me somewhere”.
It is always refreshing to see bands taking risks, and perhaps extra credit is deserved when risks are taken over the course of a debut on which a future career hinges. Seemingly unafraid though, “Swallowtail” sees drummer Joel Amey taking the reins and contributing his vocals over an acoustic guitar and some reverb-heavy effects in a surprisingly strong song which goes even further in shaking up an album already so full of sharp corners.
The record really gets a chance to stretch its legs in the raw romance of “Your Loves Whore“, on which Crossey’s production really becomes prominent in the start-stop verses, and Ellie’s lyrics prove to be as intoxicating as they are delicately delivered. Again, each song seems to shoot off in a different direction, and there’s even a resounding Mac Demarco vibe on “Freazy“, with slack guitar licks bouncing off the walls uncontrollably.
There is beauty in the fact that Wolf Alice never try to shy away from their influences, with 90’s shoegaze and grunge featuring prominently throughout the album. They take what they need from The Smashing Pumpkins, My Bloody Valentine, Hole, and so on. Importantly though, they never get too close to a blatant copy, and instead consistently refuse to submit themselves to a single genre.
In doing so they have created something that, in an indie scene that is gradually seeing less and less variety, is completely unique. Wolf Alice have not only dealt with the high expectations of them, but they have added fuel to the fire and cemented their position at the forefront of the up and coming indie scene. My Love Is Cool is out now via Dirty Hit, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Joe Sanger