Album Review: WU LYF - Go Tell Fire to The Mountain
Almost exactly two years ago, in reviewing Florence and the Machine’s debut LP, this writer surmised that "we are now living in the age of ‘anti-hype’" – wherein, rather than building up excitement about a new release, media buzz is capable of killing popular enthusiasm for fledgling artists stone dead. It's reasonable to assume that WU LYF would go along with such a hypothesis. Since forming in 2008, the band have steadfastly pursued a ‘no hype is the new hype’ strategy – right down to faceless, smoke-shrouded press shots – in a bid to preserve an air of mystery around themselves. Their website is a suitably enigmatic network of pages which babble on strangely, a typical proclamation being that "WU LYF is nothing, four dumb kids calling out heavy longings for a place to call home". On their Facebook page, their manager is listed as (ahem) War God. Band interviews are few and far between, and genuine information about them is surprisingly thin on the ground. What we do know is that they hail from Manchester, and that the oddball acronym stands for World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation. If you were inclined to be cynical, you might argue it was all a po-faced exercise in reverse-psychology marketing, but their determination to maintain a sense of the unknown is appealing nonetheless.
Fortunately, WU LYF appear more than capable of backing up this posturing: as debut albums go, Go Tell Fire... is little short of fantastic. Initially, it may leave the listener somewhat non-plussed – on the surface, it sounds suspiciously like traditional indie rock at first. Lead vocalist Ellery Roberts’ ludicrously husky voice even had Ragged Words wondering whether the long-decomposed carcass of the infamously NME-hyped-then-disowned Terris had in fact been raised from the dead. Could this be the secret WU LYF are so desperately trying to keep hidden?... Comparison aside, so unconventional is Roberts' phrasing that it’s actually a struggle to work out what he’s singing most of the time, even with the lyric sheet to hand.
But the band’s music soon becomes seriously addictive. Recording the album in an old church has obviously helped: there’s liberal use of pipe organ throughout, and the crystalline guitar-playing of Evans Kati never sounds less than invigorating. This is a huge, cavernous record, unafraid of epic choruses and towering ambition: there’s a frayed-edges, all-hanging-out quality to it that at times recalls Wolf Parade’s equally stellar Apologies to The Queen Mary debut, while the cymbal crashes have a similar shattering effect to those used on The Walkmen's most recent outing. For all the (possibly contrived) weirdness, then, there are great hooks and winning songs in abundance: 'Cave Song', for instance, is both immediate and thrilling, while 'We Bros' quickly turns into a raucous singalong. Already establishing a cult following, WU LYF can have a great impact with this impressive opening set.