Album Review: Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life

The London foursome have defeated the so-called ‘second album curse’ and produced a record few will top…

There’s a worried core that feels guitar music is a dying breed – void of addictiveness, originality and potential. The indie albums that have emerged from 2017 British soil haven’t exactly set the world alight; efforts from Royal Blood and The Amazons have gone for stadium-sized choruses and packed little else of substance. It’s just as well, then, that Wolf Alice are capable of adding colour back into this beige scene. Led by Ellie Rowsell, the quartet’s ‘My Love Is Cool’ was a remarkable (and rightfully Mercury Prize awarded) debut that rejected the pre-marketed rock aesthetic that we’re all getting bored of. Interviews and live performances have shown that the four are’The Real Deal’ – possessing not only the ability to pen crowd-unifying grit-songs, but also intelligence, range and few boundaries.

Visions Of A Life cannot be seen as a ‘difficult second album’ – a weary line that applies to any artist who produces an excellent debut LP. Wolf Alice knew they couldn’t repeat their debut and still be seen as brave and exciting  (take note, Royal Blood).  Singles ‘Yuk Foo’ and ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ gained a lot of love and press; ‘Beautifully Unconventional; and ‘Heavenward’ stretched music in new directions, whilst keeping the quartet’s debut-era sound intact. Between visuals and lyrics of the singles released so far, we’ve heard about personal woes whilst seeing the band dressed in 1950’s clothing. They’re unlike any act out there because they follow their own beat – not rigidly marching to the template of what an indie band should be.

It should be no surprise that Visions Of A Life is a stunning record that has the potential to be one of this year’s best. ‘Heavenward’ is a slow-building monster that yearns, races and expands, as evocative and dream-like as the band have ever been. There’s little vocal input, aside from the humming and beautiful wordlessness from Rowsell – but it’s a perfect opening gambit. ‘Yuk Foo’, by contrast, is a greasy, raw number that finds the petulant heroine sticking her middle-finger up, hard. It has classic punk mannerisms, and its lo-fi gristle shows why the band are among the best around – able to pull a left-turn within two tracks but not sound forced.

‘Planet Hunter’ is the opposite of ‘Yuk Foo’ – a contemplative song with subtle strings and a sense of restraint. Wolf Alice show their full range in this entrancing track whose heart beats strong and showcases a pure revelation from the quartet. ‘Formidable Cool’ strays from predictability and mixes in something fresh; candid lyrics are met with authoritative vocals to provide a song that has a completely different texture to its predecessor. ‘Sadboy’ has plenty of energy but never explodes – a good thing, that allows for a moment of calm. Whether addressing a friend or fictional characterm it speaks of someone who thinks too much and is never cheered. ‘St. Purple & Green’ starts with layered vocals – a mix of eeriness and tender beauty that all gives way to titanic riffs and yowling stomps. The title-track is nearly eight minutes in length – but keeps you hooked from start to the very end.

Not only is Visions Of A Life a superior effort to My Love Is Cool – but it’s one of the best albums of the year. There’s anger and spite, but plenty of sweetness and compassion. Wolf Alice have toured a lot since 2015 and that experience, doubtless, has widened their scope and ambition. They’ve not let attention go to their head; instead, they have produced a sensational collection of tracks that prove they’re our finest band.  This London quartet are inspiring legions of fans – including young girls – and showing what a band should be.