Review Summary: "Now we are so happy, so happy to say/ Awh lawh tha keeshaw la woo laak thisay"
You music lovers, accused elitists, discerning consumers, you think you have it all figured out. I know. I think so too. You and me, we’ve heard everything. What, with our comically oversized libraries and choice bookmarked webzines, we’ve made the critic’s pastime of tracing musical ancestry easy. Who can first crow “Brian Wilson” upon hearing almost any vocal harmony that’s been put to record in the past five years? Or “Bruce Springsteen” for those working-class anthems so constantly in vogue? Originality has kind of gone by the wayside these past few years, hasn’t it, fellas? As Conrad observed in his review for the new Fleet Foxes, there’s a pervading sense that “there’s nothing genuine in music anymore.” And if you’re like me- too deeply concerned with a perceived stagnation of art, music, life, culture, society, humanity etc., pushing off the notion that it might be time we nuked each other to hell just so we wouldn’t be so fucking boring
- then Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
is for you. Because what applies here, brilliantly, in sound and execution, is Conrad's soothing, oppositional answer to his observation: “Except, of course, when there is.”
I’m struggling to think of when I last found a band this bafflingly fantastic, and yes I’m aware that such hyperbole risks undermining my authoritative reviewer voice but there are no two words I can think of that better summarize WU LYF. Here’s the rundown of what I can give you: WU LYF is an acronym for World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation, an amorphous mass of words betraying the young, alive, mysterious nature of this collective. At their core, they’re familiar- loud kids, howling anthem after anthem- but they owe their influences nothing. Their niche is their own, carved anew into a music landscape where everything can be filed away with the right amount of adjectives and dashes. I could tell you they sound like Tom Waits singing Hopelandic and be both sort of right and woefully wrong. I could also tell you they’re like a more blue-collar Arcade Fire, all youth and passion reverberating off the walls of an abandoned church, but I’m hesitant to connect the dots, because while both can imagine an idealized youth worth celebrating, WU LYF don’t seem interested in leading the world they want united. Rather, on Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
, they are passionate, even beautiful, but anonymous, a shouting voice that might not be saying anything, belting at the top of its lungs.
Blame this on singer Ellery Roberts, the group’s idiosyncratic frontman, delivering his vocals in shrieked, jumbled syllables, approximating words only enough to mock their importance. Remember, WU LYF thrived in anonymity the year before Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
came out, as they shunned interviews and consciously rejected attention. With Roberts, they commit their mystery to record. Save for a few moments where Roberts allows golden moments of clarity, such as the stunning choruses of “L Y F” and “Spitting Blood,” the band trades mostly in varying levels of impressionistic fits. Roberts’ style is certainly peculiar; indeed it’s the most unique aspect of this band. Some will decry it as unnecessary, even excessive, but doing this denies the power behind Roberts’ wail, its Screaming Jay Hawkins way of providing the band a soul. Backed by a sparse but bombastic combination of organ, lead guitar, agile bass, and crisp, syncopated drums, he communicates emotion with flaming, fervent grandeur. If you don’t believe me, listen to the way he leads the rhythmic chant of “We Bros” and dictates the religious reverence of “Concrete Gold” and “Such a Sad Puppy Dog.” It’s nothing short of inspiring.
One peculiar thing WU LYF have said is that they wish to make WU LYF more of a band in the way FC Barcelona is more than a club. This is somewhat bewildering, but the statement reveals its candor on the album. Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
is ideologically independent; it’s people’s music. If “it’s what you make of it” is too cliché, I’ll rephrase: It’s an album that speaks by selling unadulterated passion to those jaded by the failures of yesterday’s screaming prophets, but still wish to scream. Thus WU LYF are original in that they’re not like we’ve seen before, rejecting kitschy revivalism in favor of their own monolithic music, catchy but not pop, abrasive but not “difficult.”
It’s been remarked that it feels as though WU LYF will flame out quickly, which makes sense. They sound like they’re flaming out anyway, massive and brilliant before they disappear, like a comet passing by for a glorious yet tantalizingly brief moment. I can’t fathom another album like this from them, nor imagine any young band brave enough to imitate WU LYF’s aggressively insulated demeanor. Not to wish ill on this band, it simply feels as though they cannot make another record. Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
and WU LYF by extension soar on how excitingly singular they are; I want nothing more than to love this, just this, forever.