Ah, Wolf Alice… Even if you’re not a fan, you’ve got to admire them. On their first album, they refused to be pigeonholed into any one genre, covering everything from fuzzy garage rock to dream pop and shoegaze. Compare the woozy and poppy ‘Bros’ with the snarling and distorted ‘Giant Peach’ and it’s kind of hard to tell they’re both from the same band. An album that changes its sound so drastically with every song shouldn’t work, but somehow My Love Is Cool did.
Visions Of A Life follows the same basic formula, retaining the same scattershot style. Though Wolf Alice do stretch out into a couple new genres across the album (‘Sadboy’ has an almost folk-rock feel to it), a lot of the songs here do feel like they could’ve sat on the band’s debut.
And overall, it’s a good, solid – if sometimes uneven – album. There are plenty of great songs here, such as the breezy and incredibly catchy ‘Beautifully Unconventional’. It’s a cutesy pop song thats only real fault is it only lasts two minutes – though I suppose it’s better than if it overstayed its welcome. ‘Heavenward’ is another highlight, one of the band’s dreamiest efforts to date. On it, Ellie Roswell addresses a deceased friend with some of the most moving lyrics the band have put out: ‘Yeah, I’m gonna celebrate you forever / And long to see you when it’s my turn.’ There are also plenty of great rock songs on the album as well, particularly ‘Formidable Cool’, on which Roswell sings about a woman seduced into a Charles Manson-like cult. Like ‘You’re A Germ’ from My Love Is Cool, it plays off the contrast between her smooth whispering vocal style and much harsher one. It’s an unusual track, but the band pull it off incredibly well.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the album though is Roswell’s embrace of stream of consciousness style lyrics. There’s definitely a loose feel to the writing on Visions Of A Life, and it leads to some really great songs like lead single ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’. Though the song borders on being sappy – with Roswell rambling about a crush in an ad-lib style – it’s really hard not to love. It’s goofy and cliché-ridden (‘I might as well write over my notebook that you rock my world’), but it’s aware that it is and aware that having a crush on someone is a lot like that. It’s the sort of song that you want to hate, but really can’t help but like.
‘Sky Musings’ employs a similar stream of consciousness style, but adopts a much darker tone. The dreamy guitars on ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ are replaced with an ominous drumbeat, with Roswell lyric focusing on plane flight anxiety rather than love. The instrumentation and the lyrics really gel well together, creating a unique mood. ‘Yuk Foo’ is another track with an unmoderated feel to its lyrics, though in my opinion, it’s a lot less successful than ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ and ‘Sky Musings’. It comes across as too immature and childish (I mean, you just need to look at the title…), not really saying anything particularly interesting.
As expected, Wolf Alice don’t really make an effort to narrow down their sound on Visions Of A Life, instead complicating it even further. And that’s not a bad thing. While the album falters on a few tracks, it’s a fun ride overall and the highs are definitely high enough to make it worth a listen.
Best Tracks: ‘Beautifully Unconventional’, ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’, ‘Formidable Cool’