A recurring topic at this week’s Me Against the Music panel was anonymity in the digital age: how bands like Tennis and Cults, or entire scenes like witch house, have generated buzz by cultivating a sense of mystery.
Manchester band WU LYF has taken that lesson to heart. Until recently sitting for interviews, they were defined by the lack of press knowledge of the band. WU LYF, pronounced “woo life,” is an acronym for World Unite! Lucifer Youth Foundation. Comprised of Ellery Roberts (vocals, keyboards), Tom McClung (bass), Evans Kati (guitar), and Joe Manning (drums), the band’s name suggests some grandiose force to be reckoned with, as does the title of their debut album, Go Tell Fire to the Mountain.
On Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, WU LYF combines the indie rock immediacy of early Modest Mouse with the baroque tendencies of Arcade Fire. Roberts has the “I Could Die On Stage” vocals of Isaac Brock or Frank Black, growling out anthemic lyrics with the fury of a revival minister. In the same vein, church organs power the album, contributing a theatrical, solemn feel. The guitar work is airy but precise, accompanied by basslines and drumming that match Roberts’ ferocity. Compared to their lo-fi and chillwave contemporaries, the band is a breath of fresh air.
Early single “Heavy Pop” and B-side “Concrete Gold” are slow burning odes to nostalgia, obsessed with the familiar themes of lost innocence and feeling at home. The overwhelming passion with which Roberts sings is more than enough to make the simple lyrics seem fresh and poignant.
Two of the album’s standouts have already been paired with videos that are violent and political. “Spitting Blood” is surprisingly catchy, with a bouncy Afrobeat influence and overdubbed vocals. The stark drums that punctuate the epic “Dirt” underscore the song’s – and the band’s – revolutionary spirit (and the outro suggests a different meaning for their name: “World unite, love you forever”). With Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, WU LYF won’t be anonymous for long.