Following our interview with Wolf Alice last May where they described their creative process as “Bambi trying to find his legs”, Lewis Norman, Science & Tech Editor, checks out the debut release from the North London alternative rock quartet (Ellie Rowsell, Joel Amey, Joff Oddie, Theo Ellis), and thinks it’s not just their love that’s cool.
“Every single high-paced rock rattler is juxtaposed against something more stripped-back and mellow, without sounding disjointed and awkward”
My Love Is Cool
23 June 2015, Dirty Hit/ RCA Records
[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]t would seem that My Love is Cool, the debut album from female-fronted pop rockers Wolf Alice, has been maturing for a very long time. Indeed, eagle-eyed NME readers will have been following the journey of Ellie Roswell & co. for the best part of two years now. Luckily for them, and myself, the wait has definitely been worth it.
The wait can probably be attributed to the lack of discernible genre or overarching sound demonstrated in Wolf Alice’s earlier singles. ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ was grunge at its purest whilst ‘Blush’ was a pleasant post-rock dreamscape. However, they all had one thing in common: in terms of experimentation about the genre, they were all pretty ‘safe’.
Luckily, opening track ‘Turn to Dust’ dispels any sentiment that Wolf Alice can still be considered ‘safe’. Roswell’s juvenile vocals have suddenly been transformed into ethereal chants that wouldn’t be out of place in a 15th century monastery. Be it the transcendent guitar line acting like a soft cushion beneath Roswell’s voice or the technological soundscape created by sporadic synths, everything is treated gently.
This is certainly a welcome change from the brashness of their earlier material. It’s also fairly obvious that Wolf Alice have set out to make a cohesive album instead of a collection of tunes. The fascinating opening track is masterfully book-ended with ‘The Wonderwhy’, a track powered by thudding drums, injecting a foreboding sentiment into the album’s final moments. This all happens before tapering off into lingering guitar licks, leaving the listener hungry for more.
Demonstrating just how much they’ve grown up as a band, we are treated to new versions of old favourites ‘Bros’ and ‘Fluffy’. Having undergone serious reconstructive treatment, the singles have certainly been granted more bite; ‘Fluffy’ in particular is laced with piercing screams that give it deliciously menacing edge.
Of course, My Love is Cool behaves like a rollercoaster. Every single high-paced rock rattler is juxtaposed against something more stripped-back and mellow, without sounding disjointed and awkward. There are certainly frustrated tones bubbling beneath ‘Lisbon’, not dissimilar from anything the Silversun Pickups have released in recent years. But My Love is Cool is dealt with in a much more careful fashion than the Pickups. It is cleverer, more subtle, and has a fine attention to detail that transforms musically good songs into brilliant ones. As said, I feel that the album’s greatest merit is its ability to seamlessly drift into gentler tracks. In fact, the relationship between ‘Giant Peach’, ‘Swallowtail’ and ‘Soapy Water’ is a highlight for me. ‘Giant Peach’ is nothing short of a rock belter but the following tracks, more understated in nature, still manage to soar in their own right. This can all be attributed to mature songwriting and intelligent soundscaping.
It isn’t all perfect unfortunately. Such is the youthful nature of the band, the production on some of the tracks (including the aforementioned ‘Fluffy’) does suggest that Roswell skipped into the studio and starting button-mashing, choosing a sound that she thought might sound ‘cool’ but doesn’t necessarily work. ‘Bros’ aims for Modern Vampires of the City-esque ‘underwater’ vibe but often feels like it is drowning in distortion instead of gently rippling by. But, as is often the case with albums such as this, its real beauty lies in its imperfections. I can’t say that I think that the album would maintain its gritty, youthful attitude were it not for their childish creativity. More importantly, it shows that they still have much to learn which makes me confident that this isn’t going to be the last we see of Wolf Alice.
Lewis Norman, Science & Tech Editor