It may be very easy to take either an instant liking or disliking to Wolf Alice without really hearing them at all. Their mixture of Grunge, Pop and Shoegaze has seen them lumped together with a lot of other bands who are riding on the new-found success of Grunge that many people have been hating on for a while due to it sounding like it’s aiming directly for the Radio 1 playlist. It seems to be a trend that’s building in the UK, with bands like Drenge and Darlia also getting a lot of attention and success for their newest material that’s heavily inspired by Grunge and 90s Rock in general. The other side of people seem to have taken a fancy to Wolf Alice because this new wave of bands from the UK has yet to find a band fronted by a strong female singer that captures the likes of Hole and has the charisma to outshine all of their peers.
This new era of Grunge seems to have a lot more focus on production rather than the punk aesthetic from the 90s, which is where Wolf Alice and their massive influence from Shoegaze comes in. When it comes to Shoegaze what a lot of bands tend to do now is get a reverb peddle and roll with it; either that or they handle it entirely in the production. Wolf Alice started as a duo that made songs based in Folk that they intended to be played in coffee shops. Their debut album on the other hand is made by a four-piece band that owe so much to their production and as a result ‘My Love Is Cool’ has heavy reverb absolutely all over it.
Wolf Alice do have a knack for making vocal melodies that stick though and Ellie Rowsell can be a fantastic front-woman at times with her voice going from sickly sweet to a crazed howl within the same song. Her voice does sound particularly good on songs where she’s placed used as her own backing vocals as well as having her sensitive vocals up front such as on the song ‘Bros’ which is a slice of pop magic. On the track ‘Freazy’ they blend their pop sensibilities with tight grooves that makes for one of the most enjoyable songs on the album. They work best when they’re modest with their influences and don’t go overboard on the production leaving their more folk and Indie-inspired routes underneath. Even some of the more loud moments on the album like ‘Your Loves Whore’ is fantastically anthemic with Rousell’s vocals being mixed in with the guitars to create one of the moments on the album where the My Bloody Valentine influence works.
But still, the production on ‘My Love Is Cool’ is so heavy and overbearing that – despite some good song writing – it’s impossible to shake off. On so many of the tracks on here behind the reverb and the effects pedals there is a distinct lack of ideas musically with there being dull chord progressions or nothing interesting about the actual effects they’re using. Most of these songs are written in a way that requires some thunderous dense noise or bare minimalism to create tension and intrigue rather than production that makes their music sound hollow and spacious. My Bloody Valentine’s mountains of noises and effects made some of the most spellbinding and important music of the 90s rather than being used to cover up their song-writing. The song ‘Soapy Water’ plays to its name well with it sounds so murky with a constant droning synth line that does nothing more than sit there like wallpaper; and the song ‘Lisbon’ is a good song that’s been covered in a shroud of effects that get piled on when the song picks up pace in the chorus. There are so many choruses that do very little on this album.
Despite this Wolf Alice do hold their own on this album in that they thrive on unpredictability. Although the song ‘Shallowtail’ may be the most melodramatic song on the album, it does come as a welcome change of pace hearing a male vocal and the although the random blast of energy at the end of the song feels awkward and out-of-place, it has some of the most interesting sonic qualities from the whole album. This is an album of promising moments executed to sound like mediocrity. The way in which they attempt to marry together elements of Grunge with other genres for modern audiences is a lot more admirable than a lot of the efforts from their peers. Maybe one day Wolf Alice will release a fantastic album and fill in the void in music that they and their fans want them to fill so badly. Their debut album, unfortunately, isn’t it.
Best Tracks: Bros, Your Loves Whore, Freazy