Indie rock has hit a bit of a stand still, with innovation at an all-time low. Since 2010, the genre has stayed afloat with a formulaic approach and decent sales, but Wolf Alice is one of the few bands that has been bucking the trend.
Although the quartet took their time releasing their first album, My Love is Cool was worth the wait. With a sound heavily influenced by ’90s rock, critics often mistake them for a grunge band. In reality, Wolf Alice was a duo turned indie rock group, combining their folk origins with punchy electric guitars and a sense of youth. The record, released Tuesday, removes some of their grunge influence, but keeps just enough of their hypnotic riffs and vocal themes to please listeners.
The album’s standout is each song’s ability to mesmerize. “You’re a Germ” is a highlight, not because of how close it is to the old Wolf Alice, but because of how easy it is to get lost in lead singer Ellie Rowsell’s lyrics and distorted guitar. The mixing and production of this song make it just right to be enjoyed by a wide range of people.
Lyrically, each song lives up to expectations. Whether it’s the crying romance in “Your Loves Whore” or the built-up storytelling in “Turn to Dust,” Rowsell finds herself all over the map. Her ability to subtly express emotions over the band’s wide variety of sounds on this record is nothing to scoff at.
“Bros,” the lead single off of the album, epitomizes what Wolf Alice aimed for. It contains that ever-present electric guitar the group is known for, but makes adjustments so that lyrics are the main contribution to the song.
Each song employs this tactic: pull back instrumentation and focus on the lyrics. This strategy, although a bit detrimental to the enjoyment of the guitar and drums on the album, brings to light how important Rowsell’s vocals are to each moment.
Listen to Wolf Alice’s “Moaning Lisa Smiles”
My Love is Cool’s flaws aren’t apparent in one particular song, but rather in the album overall. Wolf Alice appears to be the group that could provide some needed change to indie rock, but they instead chose to eliminate their previously heavy sound to please less-dedicated fans.
Sonically the lead and rhythm guitar parts have been turned down a notch. In live performances, these elements of their music will likely shine, but on the record, some moments feel muddy and isolated. Pop into Wolf Alice’s SoundCloud and there’s a quality grouping of singles and EPs that emulate heavier rock. This reinvention itself is a bit of a side step; it’s not improving the quality of their music, but it’s not backtracking either.
Overall, the record has an identity of its own. Compared to their previous works, it’s a safe move to appeal to a larger fan base, but because of how impassioned some of their songs have been, their version of safe and slightly boring still manages to push boundaries.
Wolf Alice’s debut album is a definite success, requiring multiple dedicated listens to fully grasp. No matter how long listeners have been fans of Wolf Alice, the band’s new sound on My Love is Cool is more than enough to hold them over until future releases.
Album: My Love is Cool
Genre: Indie Rock