Go Tell Fire to the Mountain by WU LYF

Go Tell Fire to the Mountain was released 08.22.11 (North America) and is still on repeat at Talk Rock to Me.

It is particularly rare in this age of social media and instant access, for a band to emerge on the music scene with an air of mystery intact. Enter WU LYF: a band that has managed to both baffle and intrigue.

The four Mancunians have received quite a lot of press coverage, ironically due to their strong aversion to the press. In the year leading up to the release of their self-produced, self-released, debut album, Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, WU LYF (World Unite! Lucifer Youth Foundation) repeatedly balked at the U.K. media, preferring to instead release abstract descriptions of the band via their website:

WU LYF is nothing, four dumb kids calling out heavy longings for a place to call home… I don’t feel at home in this place, like your hearts drunk on kerosene and all you need is a spark. A lil’ flare of Lucifer.

The UK media ate it up. Considering they knew very little about the band, music writers could not say enough about WU LYF. Funny that in doing so they were perpetuating the hyperboles that WU LYF vocalist, Ellery Roberts, states the band is trying so desperately to avoid.

It is unclear if this was what WU LYF was aiming for all along—hype induced by shunning hype—but whether they wanted it or not, they got it. Watching the (very few) interviews the band has allowed since the album’s release, will yield different conclusions. In some (typically the ones where they are asked more questions about themselves than their music) WU LYF’s members display a “we’re over it” attitude that makes them appear a bit rude and abrasive, while in other interviews (the musically-focused ones), the band reads as intelligent, engaging and insightful. Ah, perhaps this is starting to make sense. Whatever the case may be, WU LYF has created something interesting with Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, something quite worthy of discussion.

WU LYF calls their musical style ‘heavy pop’. This description may confuse many, but after a few listens to their debut it becomes clearer as to what they were getting at, though, they may have sold themselves short. The album, which was recorded in an abandoned church, is full of lavish arrangements and gorgeous instrumentation—a mass of energetic sound that is wonderful to listen to. It would be easy to say it’s a—big sounding and cleverly executed indie rock album from a talented group of musicians—and call it a day. But it’s much more than that. Robert’s voice is the key here; add it to the
mix and you have something altogether different.

Describing Robert’s vocals is a tall task. First off, save for the odd phrase, he is completely unintelligible. The lyrics are lost—seemingly purposefully—in moans, grunts, and what sound like primal howls. He is harsh and impassioned; and it’s actually quite touching. It is near impossible to draw a vocal comparison that makes sense, but for the sake of imagery one could say he sounds like Tom Waits, that is, if Waits was a Neanderthal crying out for a revolution while being backed by luscious modern instrumentation. Proof an analogy simple doesn’t work here. Convoluted? Yes. Do Robert’s vocals work? Surprisingly, yes. WU LYF clearly intends to say something with this album, but they leave the talking up to the music. Robert’s abstract vocals help the process along.

The album opener, LYF, begins with a lonely organ, which eventually gives way to a vigorous rhythm, setting the tone of Go Tell Fire to the Mountain (percussion and organ play huge roles in this LP). Roberts’ raw vocals are initially off-putting, but the discomfort does not last long. Recording in a church was the right choice for best capturing the band’s robust sound. All of the instruments sound bigger than reality; check out the drums on Dirt, for example. WU LYF is also effective at evoking imagery with their songs: closer Heavy Pop plays like a cry victorious after an epic and bloody battle; it is both triumphant and heartbreaking.

Taking a break from the charging instrumentation, WU LYF especially connects on the moving track, Such a Sad Puppy Dog. The song is intimate; there is a point where the organ drone ceases and the only sounds that can be heard are a sniff and a smack of the lips from Roberts.

As much as it seems like nonsense to say this, WU LYF’s message is clearly stated within their lack of a clear message. This isn’t an album that is meant to be defined and it doesn’t matter what inspired them to create it. WU LYF made this album because they wanted to do so, and that’s that. That’s their
message: draw your own conclusions. Do something. Say something. At the very least, ask questions.

— By Amanda Gallagher, freelance writer and wearer of many (tiny) hats.


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