Forget death and taxes. The British music press producing hype is life’s most reliable certainty, and one that creates a sink-or-swim situation for the bands who receive it. You either rise to the high praise (Elastica, Oasis during the Definitely Maybe era, and in an uniquely American twist, The Strokes) or crash and burn, your star never quite as shiny as your glossy cover (Menswear, Oasis during the Be Here Now era, Palma Violets). Those who do flop deserve, at the very least, our sympathy, as it’s all too easy for bands to lose the plot amidst such enthusiastic typeface.
Speaking of enthusiastic typeface, south London fourpiece Wolf Alice have been privy to their fair share of caps lock lately, most notably NME’s recent declaration that “THEY’RE GONNA BE BIG.” The band’s pursuit of actual, deserved acclaim (and, let’s be honest, top billing in Hyde Park) comes to a head with My Love Is Cool, an ambitious and energetic debut that spans pop, grunge, punk and indie with youthful zeal. The feeling of nervous excitement is palpable in each track, as is the sense that this is a band careening towards their glorious heyday.
And oh, how they careen. In the process of diving head-first into multiple genres and distinctly nineties and post-punk influences, they suffer not from lack of energy or songwriting prowess but from an inability to string the poles of their musical spectrum together. My Love Is Cool is hardly a haphazard mess, but Wolf Alice struggle to contain themselves and streamline their vision(s) in the allotted 49 minutes.
Still the band is careful to not reveal how big their teeth are all at once. Opening track “Turn To Dust” is a calculated slow burn, frontwoman Ellie Rowsell showcasing her vocal talents with cool reserve. Album highlight “Your Loves Whore” shimmers through the emotional peaks and pitfalls of love, pairing soft verses with a glittering chorus that bursts in all the right places. Their more subdued tracks occasionally fail to launch, such as on the over-melancholic “Swallowtail” and hidden track cum album closer “The Wonderwhy”, a six-minute, scatterbrained ordeal.
But just because Wolf Alice doesn’t explode at every opportunity doesn’t mean they don’t explode. The band’s best songwriting occurs when they ascend to their most dazzling, especially during the exhilarating synth-guitar mash of “Lisbon” and the fierce, grunge-y swagger of “Giant Peach”. It’s dynamic songs like those that beg the question as to why the band left “Moaning Lisa Smile” – one of their shrewdest reinterpretations of 90s alt savagery – off every version of the album besides the American one.
2015 is already bursting with excellent debut albums (Leon Bridges, Bully and Shamir come to mind) and Wolf Alice fit quite nicely within that rapidly growing list. Out of all those exceptional first efforts, My Love Is Cool sounds most obviously destined for greatness in the Glastonbury sense. Put it this way: it’s probably not a coincidence that the band’s present hype sniffs ever so slightly of that which surrounded Arctic Monkeys in 2006. Predicting the future is as risky a business as it was when the Arctics dropped their debut nine years ago, but Alex Turner himself can’t deny that My Love Is Cool points due north towards the Pyramid Stage. Stay tuned.