Wu Lyf'Go Tell Fire To The Mountain'
Wu Lyf have been playing hard to get.
The last two years they have been playing off the wall gigs. Unannounced sorties. Hip parties. Friends only. Invite only. That sort of thing. They give little away on the internet and deliberately blur their meanings.
It's a courageous game plan.
It means that people will want them to fail. Hoping for some egg on their well chiseled faces. Hoping the dull plodders get their awards instead of the inspired who buck the treadmill.
Music needs intrigue. It needs legends. It needs bands who play with myth. It needs the thrill of the chase. The Sex Pistols made it work. And every now and then someone else does.
All this would not have worked, of course, if Wu Lyf were rubbish. But they are not. They are totally original and have managed to find a space in the tightly overcrowded pantheon of guitar indie. When we saw them 18 months ago they were already great. Cool garage rock but twisted and stunningly melodramatic. It was like an English version of Nation Of Ulysses in a way. The same kind of high IQ rhetoric ( they claim their name stands for World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation, which is quite brilliant and mystical and intriguing) and the same twisted riffola and fierce passion but with an added sense of scale, an added idea of seeking out a greatness and making the big music that could fill a stadium.
Since then their story has grown and they have become the hottest new band in the country - the band everyone will have an opinion on. The debut album finally arrives as three nicely packaged brown card sleeves still giving little away, still the tease, the expectation. They have released it own their own label, turning down the majors and self funding from a publishing advance. This doesn't make their music better or worse but shows a gritty DIY fuck you spirit. They had the majors queuing up for them and still went their own way.
Since the gig I saw them at they have pruned their sound. There is a lot more space, a lot more atmospherics but an added gruff intensity from the vocals, a shirt tearing passion that will tie them into the underground and keep them away from the grubby mits of the mainstream. This is an underground, though, where they will sell a lot of records. The mainstream and the underground are so blurred now that it's becoming hard to tell.
Singing with this kind of hoarse intensity makes the dullards at mainstream radio shit themselves and has to be applauded for doing so. The vocals are so intense and unforgiving that they are a real marker of the band. You can feel the visceral passion, it's oddly similar in intensity if not in sound to the early Dexys- you know when people believe in the music more than anything in the world. The power of music. The preacher man rush of belief? Wu Lyf have all that. It's a long way away from the hipster irony that some may have them marked as.
If all great rock n roll is finding your truth then Wu Lyf are perfect. Their passion is their truth and when Ellery Roberts sings it's with a total conviction and soul power that cuts through the world of dustbin indie.
The songs are oozing, growing rushes of emotional power, and it's this near naked emotionality that makes them a great band and not hipsters on the angular trip.
Roberts' organ playing sounds church like giving the songs an air of a sermon. It's gloomy textures adding to the intensity and darkness of the album and all adding to the preaching from the pulpit fire and brimstone intensity. The fact that they recorded the album in a church in Ancoats in Manchester adds to this, the room ambience swamping the sound with a spectral wash. In contrast Evans Kati's guitars play sunshine arpeggios tumbling in and out of the songs with deft finger picking but still adding to the pure emotion.
Ultimately what Wu Lyf have created is a soul music. A 21st century skinny kid soul power drenched in reverb. It sounds massive. It feels ambitious. The band call it heavy pop and they operate on their own terms.