Release Date: Jun 23, 2015
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
For a band, as in life, it can take a while to find comfort in your own skin. Nobody comes fully formed, most remain perpetual cookie dough. Years of experimentation, mistakes, missteps and false dawns can pass before finally finding a real identity; one that not just the fans, but the band themselves truly believe in. It’s not something that’s often crystallised by the time debut albums come along.
London four-piece Wolf Alice got their name from a 1979 short story by Angela Carter. In the story, a feral child, left in the care of a lonely werewolf, independently becomes aware of her human nature and womanhood, transcending her animalistic origins. While Wolf Alice the band hasn't had to overcome any literal wolf-like tendencies, frontwoman Ellie Rowsell and crew have certainly grown from humble beginnings in 2010, crafting a debut album that is startlingly refined and focused.
You just know that when an album gets a huge amount of attention before release, it’s never going to live up to expectation, don’t you? There hasn’t been ‘hype’ as such surrounding London quartet Wolf Alice in the run up to the release of debut LP My Love Is Cool, but there’s been a gathering snowball of appreciation that has propelled the band through years of gigging since their 2010 formation, and excitement at the album’s imminent release is now huge. Wolf Alice (name taken from literary references in case anyone’s wondering) have released several songs already, many of which don’t see an outing on My Love Is Cool, and when you hear the quality of those left behind, it’s easy to see why such a weight of expectation sits on their young shoulders regarding the album. The sparse, online only release from 2012 – Leaving You – is one such omission that would have enhanced the album, as is the excellent heavier, rockier number Moaning Lisa Smile, the synthy swirls of Every Cloud and the racing She from 2013’s Blush EP; it’s frightening, really, that songs of such quality can be deprived of an album presence completely, it’s criminal in fact, but it’s a huge testimony to My Love Is Cool.
My Love Is Cool is a real beast of a debut. In the best possible way. It literally roars with feverish, feral relish. It could’ve gone either way though. This London quartet led by Packmaster Ellie “GRRR!” Rowsell have been riding that ol’ choo-choo train called “hype” for seemingly ….
At this stage in music’s evolution, the arrival of a truly innovative indie album is about as likely as Morrissey demanding foie gras on his rider. So Wolf Alice’s debut should therefore be approached without cynicism: while the foundations of My Love Is Cool are 90s/00s shoegaze and grunge, the London quartet defibrillate their influences with the ambition of youth. It also feels like an album that’s been allowed time to gestate: despite being virtually veteran in buzzband terms, they have benefitted from beefing up their sound on tour – as evidenced on the heavy romance of Your Loves Whore, the dirty degenerate chug of You’re a Germ, or the cinematic Turn to Dust.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It's hard to place Wolf Alice, which is perhaps why they've garnered the attention they have. If you want to hear grunge influences, you'll pick it out of 'Moaning Lisa Smile'. If you want to hear Cranberries style pop rock, you'll find it in 'Your Loves Whore'.
What a relief it is that the next big British indie sensation isn't a bunch of anointed lads with stadium-sized savior complexes. Wolf Alice's debut album is one of 2015's most anticipated homegrown debuts, thanks not to them running their mouths or having the right management, but three years of hard touring punctuated by just four EPs. In the UK, My Love is Cool is being touted as grunge’s second (or, ninth) coming, when really it affirms the tentative coming-of-age story in guitarist/singer Ellie Rowsell’s lyrics by refusing to settle for a single identity at this early stage.
Wolf Alice have flipped-reversed alternative music’s default woe-is-me grumbling, and instead made an album which channels some jay-oh-why JOY into ye olde rock and roll’s rotting corpse. My Love is Cool enjoys life’s little pleasures. Rather than droning on about drones (hi Matt Bellamy!), the general fuckwittery of 'other people' and the fact that modem life is kinda rubbish, Wolf Alice know that when you’re hermetically sealed in your headphones, what you really want - nay need - is to be wrapped up in music.
Some bands take their time coming into their own. Such is the case with Wolf Alice, who formed in 2010 but didn't release their debut album until 2015. During those five years, Ellie Rowsell and Joff Oddie -- who were joined by drummer Joel Amey and bassist Theo Ellis in 2012 -- explored styles ranging from folk-rock to gritty post-punk on their singles and EPs.
Wolf Alice, like its name implies, is a mixed bag. The indie rock four-piece started as an outlet for Ellie Rowsell and Joff Oddie to test coffee shop songs, but in a matter of months it began to swell into something larger, then something grungier, and then something poppy. Hype chased the north London band for the next four years, yet they never seemed affected by it in interviews.
On the hidden track tucked at the end of this U.K. band's debut, singer-guitarist Ellie Rowsell strums her guitar on a demo-quality recording that recalls Liz Phair's low-fi-grail Girly Sound tapes from 1991. "Teach me rock & roll," she sings with breathy anticipation. That sense of open-ended self-discovery suffuses every song.
You could dismiss these on-the-up young Londoners as mere 90s fancy dressers, influences sewn clearly to their metaphorical plaid shirts. But every era borrows, and even in one when you can catch the real Breeders, Smashing Pumpkins and Veruca Salt on the reunion circuit, Wolf Alice still offer something more: the dizzy headrush of the first time. Your Love’s Whore and Giant Peach update the dynamic, build-and-release fun of the best post-grunge crossover bands, and in Ellie Rowsell, they’ve a firecracker frontwoman whose lyrics capture the strange sadness of growing up.
If originality really is the measure by which we evaluate art, then authenticity must surely be a close second. For British workhorses Wolf Alice, you could build a case for the former; the latter is tough to refute. The four-piece go for a little bit of everything on their debut album, My Love Is Cool. It is a tremendously self-assured introduction, both in terms of songwriting and scope.
Wolf Alice, a grunge(ish) four piece from London, announce themselves in a sort of statement of identity on the second track, “Bros”, of their ambitious debut LP, My Love Is Cool. Lead singer - the completely dominating, vulnerable and fecund Ellie Rowsell - coos, "Are you wild like me, raised by wolves and other beasts?" The lyric represents, at once, a reference to the band's name, taken from an Angela Carter short story about a girl, Wolf-Alice, raised by wolves, and an invitation to the listener to join in the savagery. The conditional logic runs downhill: If you're wild like Wolf Alice, you've found a home in the bombastic My Love Is Cool.
On the face of it, “My Love Is Cool” tries too many things at once. From the softly pulsing ethereality of “Turn to Dust” to the grungy Juliana Hatfield rumble of “Moaning Lisa Smile” and the synth-addled, doom-guitar post-punk drive of “Giant Peach,” Wolf Alice comes across like a band leaving no statements unmade on its first album, lest there be no second. But it’s hard to argue that the band suffers from an identity crisis when nearly everything works.