VISIONS OF A LIFE, WOLF ALICE, Dirty Hit, $8.99
When Wolf Alice released their debut album, My Love is Cool, in 2015, there was little appetite for a steady voice to swoop in and erect totems to their pined-for Brit-rock monoculture. Their music had descended from the Britpop-Libertines-Arctic Monkeys lineage, but it wasn’t a lift. It was, in fact, introspective, and, at times, spiritually involving.
Two years after picking up a Mercury nomination for the album, the north London quartet is back to throw to the world another chapter of their compelling history, with their new album Visions of a Life. Recorded in LA with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen, the new album is an expansive trip. It sees the band refine the exuberant jumble of dream-pop and grunge that characterised their debut album, while also finding new areas of exploration. It could be argued that there may not be a more potent theme for the band to be exploring; in times of economic uncertainty and youth frustration having been sold a series of false expectations by the face of consumerist fetishism and politicians continuing to forge a career out of lying in pursuit of their own ambitions.
The album — populated with dreamers and deceivers alike — is about anxiety and freefall, and about death, both hypothetical and literal. While the song Planet Hunter drifts in reverie before whirling into conflict, St Purple and Green revitalises their trademark grunge-folk hybrid. The title track swirls up an abyss-gazing thrash before closing the album, on a mournful utterance of the word “dead”.
Wolf Alice starred in On the Road, Michael Winterbottom’s documentary about a rock band — Wolf Alice — whose dull tour routine backdrops a fictional romance. “Suddenly I’m acting as myself, which makes you feel very self-conscious,” Ellie Rowsell has said of the experience in an interview. Her lyrics for the songs in the new album suggest the feeling isn’t unfamiliar. Visions of a Life laments the characters we play in life and the psychic toll of women keeping up appearances.
The feral overdrive of Yuk Foo is exemplar to this, as Roswell provokes with “Am I a b*tch to not like you anymore? Punch me in my face, I won’t even fight you no more”. In the down-tempo synth-pop anthem Don’t Delete the Kisses, she both mocks and romanticises young-adult drift. “I’m like a teenage girl,” she sing-speaks as the protagonist. “I might as well write all over my notebook that you ‘rock my world’.” Cliched romance, the song argues, is tedious and shallow only until it comes for you. It’s electrifyingly real.
Insofar as representing the unheard millennial voice that have been all so easily left behind, which Visions of a Life was crafted to encapsulate and illustrate, Wolf Alice may turn out to be equally as significant as anyone claiming to answer their call for radical change. However, only time will tell how deep the rabbit hole goes.