“If we had an inkling of an idea, even if it seemed a bit silly, we’d try it out and see what happened,” Ellie Rowsell said earlier this year about the making of Wolf Alice’s second album, ‘Visions Of A Life’. Spoiler alert: what happened was the London band making a record so bold, brave and jaw-droppingly advanced it should sound out a secret “album of the year” message when played backwards.
In some ways, Wolf Alice’s second album is an extension of their 2015 debut, ‘My Love Is Cool’. That excellent record was restless, too, flitting from hypnotic, electronic folk to teeth-baring rock. Some of the little ideas buried in its songs are blown up life-sized here – the thundering guitars of the doom-y, shape-shifting title track are reminiscent of ‘Giant Peach”s hefty finale, while the mid-air meltdown of ‘Sky Musings’ takes ‘The Wonderwhy”s spoken word and laces it through the whole ominous track.
More than that, though, ‘Visions Of A Life’ is a vast improvement on an already supreme foundation. Bassist Theo Ellis and Joel Amey’s rhythm section propels each song with just the right combination of intricacy and immediacy. ‘Formidable Cool’ is Wolf Al at their nastiest – guitarist Joff Oddie’s riff is tumbling and sleazy, while its savage breaking point has Ellie howling “That’s all he fucking did when he fucked you on the floor!” Far softer, ‘After The Zero Hour’ is a choral beauty more fit for churches than the sticky-floored arenas the Londoners are headed for.
It’s ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ that lifts things to astronomical new heights, though. With whirring guitars straight from Blur‘s ‘Essex Dogs’ and a glittering, swirling melody, it’s a cinematic glory that has the potential to become a modern classic. Ellie said she wanted to write “one of those head-out-the-window driving tunes”, but it feels more like soaring light years above Earth with enough butterflies in your stomach to carry you all the way home.
With ‘Visions Of A Life’ Wolf Alice are removing any doubt about their status in the UK music scene. Best band in Britain? 100 per cent.