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Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life Review

The ‘second album’ cliché is one that has been flogged to death, but don’t ignore the fact that attempting to follow up a hugely successful debut is not an easy task. London based band Wolf Alice shot to the fore of the alternative scene with their simply impeccable album ‘My Love is Cool’, released via Dirty Hit records in 2015. The 4-piece haven’t rested on their laurels and are back with a new release, but does it match the quality of its predecessor?

Quite simply, yes, it does. ‘My Love Is Cool’ is a showcase of sorts. The ensemble go from classic hard rock songs, to more indie rooted numbers, dabble in electronica and concoct some pure pop. Sophomore effort ‘Visions Of A Life’ is another oddly vibrant and almost oxymoronic release in nature yet creates a far more coherent sound than it’s predecessor.

Produced by Former Nine Inch Nails bassist, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who recently manned the desk on the new Paramore album, ‘Visions of A Life’ has an unmistakably steady stream of indie-rock drenched in pop sensibilities coursing throughout the LP. Opening track ‘Heavenward’ kicks off proceedings with the usual ‘Alice’ trademark of dreamy-shoegaze-esque guitars and airy vocals whilst quickly discarding them and launching into track 2, ‘Yuk Foo’. (Very subtle spoonerism there) Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell berates the listener throughout the furious 2:13 track, an alt-rock, post-punk wall puncher of a song which somewhat stands out in its sheer volatility when compared to other numbers on the release.

Third track and lead Single ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ is a far more subdued effort, and is a prime example of the clever pop-sensibilities possessed by the North London outfit. ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ sees the group ditch the guitars and pick up the synths in what is quickly becoming a staple of their ever-evolving sound. It is hard to keep up with the stylistic changes throughout the album at points, yet it is still quite a seamless and enjoyable listen whilst traversing all sub-genres of modern, indie music.

As the album progresses one can be forgiven for thinking Rowsell and Co are suffering somewhat of an identity crisis, a band struggling to figure out exactly where they place in the world, but it’s still a fantastic album; the diversity is what in-fact makes it. The concurrent theme that gels the 12 tracks together is that there is no theme, as terribly trite as it may sound.

‘Sadboy’ and ‘Space and Time’ are two other stand outs. Bassist Theo Ellis is massively invaluable throughout, with the lanky, bleach blonde bass boy driving the tracks with his snarling and often intricately distorted bass tones.  As always, the best is saved for last. The LP comes to a close with the near 8-minute titular behemoth of a track, ‘Visions of A Life’. The song crawls into life before devolving into a neck wrenching, booming effort around 4 minutes in, with guitarist Joff Oddie supplying perhaps one of the best riffs Wolf Alice have ever put to tape, before Rowsell brings proceedings back down to an affable and fitting end.

The hype surrounding this second LP was massive, but thankfully the band have lived up to the billing. Although some fans much prefer the groups more heavier efforts, ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ is by far the most impressive number on the entire release. A beautifully manufactured, poppy-soppy 4 minutes tackling the modern day take on the fear of commitment. Solid stuff.

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