All of the talk about WU LYF (pronounced Woo Life) to this point has concerned the band’s attempt at shying away from hype. Naturally, the opposite happened, for if you show a little skin, then more will be craved from the media world in search of a story. The Manchester ambient rock four-piece’s mysterious modus operandi rather than their music of course, ended up as the main focus.
They employed sloganeering, self-contained iconography, a manager who happened to be an advertising executive (they called him their “war god”) and operated like a musical cult. Each missive from their camp referred to WU LYF as the World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation in cryptic language. Even while attempting to clear up some of their back story in The Guardian last week, they referred to themselves as “four chairmen of our own company,” “entrepreneurs” and “co-founder of the LYF.”
All of the above makes it impossible for a well-rounded review of WU LYF’s self-financed debut album NOT to include their enigmatic back story, which ends up as a diverting necessity as Go Tell Fire To The Mountain is among the most intriguing albums to come out of the UK in the last six months.
One thing you can’t deny about WU LYF are their musical chops. The four members: Ellery Roberts (vocals, organ), Tom McClung (bass), Joseph Manning (drums) and Evans Kati (guitar) sound like they’ve been playing together for a long time, refining their intricate take on haunting and evocative “heavy pop.” The ten songs here have cohesive flow to them taking in intense yet sparse arrangements, tropical guitar tones and lots of beautifully-worked crescendos where each instrument works as part of a whole.
Key to the ambiance of the record is that it was recorded in a disused church in Manchester and as such, there’s a capacious and airy quality to the recording that gives the organ an extra eerieness and adds a unique sound to it all. The album was recorded with the band playing every day over three weeks and kudos to producer Paul Savage for tightening the band’s output and palette. In fact, the mood touches occasionally on Savage’s early work on Mogwai’s Young Team. Both records share the same warm, soaring-yet-distant post-rock guitar tones.
The vocals may be the most divisive aspect of WU LYF for many. Ellery Roberts’ gruff, aggressive and burning vocals evokes a non-English speaking Tom Waits trying to sing in the tongue for the first time. Such is the unintelligible howling quality of most of the vocals, it’s pointless to try and analyse the lyrics. The band themselves subtitled the video for ‘Dirt’ (below).
Additionally, WU LYF could be criticised for their lack of variation as their debut is essentially ten versions of one song. Admittedly, that song just happens to be a cascading and brilliantly evocative swirling rock song so they just about get away with it.
Go Tell Fire To The Mountain proves that WU LYF are more than a gimmicky marketing campaign. They are a band with substance and an interesting future ahead of them. They’ve laid their own impressive foundation, now it’s up to the rest of the world to decide whether they want to join the LYF.