A Retrospective On – Wolf Alice Visions of A Life
Written by Music on 1st November 2018
When Wolf Alice’s debut album My Love Is Cool arrived in 2015 the British Rock genre had been solidified and stagnated since the decline of its popularity in the late 2000s and early 2010s with a small few mainstay acts such as Arctic Monkeys maintaining commercial (and critical) success as the Brit Pop structures the scene was built upon slowly began to turn to dust. It became time for someone to steal the mantlepiece of British Indie music from the horde of bucket hat dawning juveniles attached to stadium sized egos with a lack finesse to fill them and thankfully Wolf Alice managed to capture the ball and run with it. The debut album was met with critical acclaim and financial success with everyone wondering how will they follow that? The answer is magnificently.
The sequential album, Visions of A Life, doesn’t shock with aesthetic changes but it doesn’t have to either with a shoegaze atmosphere paired with a melancholy that you struggle to shake hours after listening. This is where Wolf Alice truly shows its prowess as its haunting environment allows Vocalist and Guitarist Ellie Rowsell to hypnotise you into the mindset of a youth struggling with the uncertainty, joy and angst of life and its fragile mortality.
This is eloquently on display with the album’s aptly titled opening track “Heavenward”, as the title would suggest the track deals with the cruelty of death and concept of life after it. As if it was the next stage of grief the following track on the album, “Yuk Foo”, is the most aggressive song on the album in the vein of Nirvana with an outpouring of emotions leaving the listener overwhelmingly relieved by the end of it. Outwardly unsubtle and unashamedly beautiful “Don’t Delete The Kisses” is a heart-warming ballad to falling in love and the anxiety and self-doubt that comes with it , lyrics such as “I wanna tell the whole world about you/I think that that’s a sign” capture the moment that one person takes over your mind.
As Side A of the album begins to come to a close we see glimpses of the previously mentioned melancholy, the track “Planet Hunter” touches upon the desire to stay within the best nights of your life before the sadness seeps into your mind again as the opening verse painstakingly captures “And it was never ever gonna last long/And it was only ever gonna go wrong/And in the morning I only have myself to hate”. The follow up track “Sky Musings” takes a new direction for the band as Ellie swaps her trademark high notes for a more spoken word approach which is well suited to the song’s sense of claustrophobia as it almost tries to give us a glimpse into the mindset of a panic attack.
On Side B of the album the song titled “St Purple and Green” retouches on the subject of mortality while merging folk and grunge elements into a flawless mixture as only Wolf Alice can. The curtains close on the album with the 8 minute title track “Visions of a Life”, split into 3 parts the song perfectly encapsulates the essence of the whole album with themes of life, love, death and the afterlife. This would usually be an ambitious feat for any band but it goes without saying that Wolf Alice manages to captivate the listener with a spectacular album closer with compelling lyrics and exciting music.
Visions Of A Life is an incredible achievement as the London quartet manage to capture the beauty of youth paired with the downfalls of mental health while also touching upon the instability you suffer when figuring out who you are. Musically they are able to effortlessly flow through numerous styles and genres of music in a way that only they can as Wolf Alice blatantly neglects the idea of a difficult second album. Wolf Alice’s second album is intoxicating and profound, it truly is a masterpiece and well deserving of its recent Mercury Music Prize win.
Written by Adam Fraser