Wolf Alice have done alright, haven’t they? It’s pretty easy to get lost in this mediocre dirge of indie-rock that the UK has at the moment, but this lot managed it with a deft mix of fresh songwriting, buckets of charisma, and subverting expectation.
If only that continued. Starting with a song like Heavenward is a dicey move, given that’s exactly the height they reach – breeding more shoegaze is a smart move for them, as we’re lost in the hazy guitars and Ellie Rowsell’s celestial vocal.
So why does it all go a bit overboard on Yuk Foo? From the totally unsubtle title to the high-school expressions of emotion, it sticks out like an uncomfortable bruise on their robust back catalogue. If it were just that it might be forgiven, but it seems to herald a shift; by the time Beautifully Unconventional comes around, Wolf Alice have dabbled in three different approaches and only one of them sticks. From the outside it looks like a band who are unsure of who they are.
It’s a shame, because they certainly proclaim things with confidence. Don’t Delete The Kisses balances their spike with a tender chorus melody (slightly offset by a jarring lean toward the spoken word), Sky Musings lingers in the dark recesses but remains suffocated by those shadows, Formidable Cool tries to emulate the swagger of its title but doesn’t leave the same impact. And when Wolf Alice do succeed – like the Mazzy Star-esque After The Zero Hour – it feels against the grain for a band who, up until that point, have shown an opposite personality.
But we like Wolf Alice a lot, and when they get things right they’re exactly what the genre needs. Planet Hunter once again sees them go skyward with grace, and the final leg of the album brings back a lot of what we loved about them, whether it’s Space & Time‘s raucous roll through a punk style, or the insouciance of Sadboy (“you think too much”), or the genuinely thrilling journey of St. Purple & Green. It’s an interesting, mixed portrait of a band that’s clearly letting out the angst of its teenage years – let’s hope they’ve got it all out of their system now, because there’s clearly much more wonder left to be enjoyed every time they find their level.