Review Summary: Visions of a directionless mess of a lifeVisions of a Life
was one of my most anticipated albums of the year, and yet I wasn’t surprised when it disappointed me. I think I knew in my heart that Wolf Alice wouldn’t come through with anything transcendentally brilliant, some masterwork to cement their place in indie rock history. And they haven’t; Visions of a Life
is a solid effort, but as an album it’s more a collection of songs than something cohesive you could put your finger on.
The most striking example of this lack of stylistic consistency is the first two tracks. Opener “Heavenward” is a sombre affair – a song about the death of a friend that has a sort of resigned sadness to it, a bittersweet beauty. As the track soars into the chorus with its calls of “go heavenward”, prompted by a dreary “and long to see you when it’s my turn”, its dreamy quality becomes that sort of sky gazing contemplation I think we have all felt when life gives us death lemons, making it an extremely striking opener. “Yuk Foo”, a decent tune if not for its annoyingly rockin
vibe and cry of “I don’t give a ***!”, which reminds me of Wolf Alice’s *** attempts to be a punk band from the last LP, seems like the complete anti-thesis of “Heavenward” . Its main achievement is therefore that it successfully bulldozes the contemplative atmosphere “Heavenward” so carefully constructed in a matter of seconds. Bravo Wolf Alice.
This shoddy track listing then continues with “Beautifully Unconventional”, a barebones guitar-licking track with a 50s inspired video that serves as another curveball and just made me wonder what the *** is going on here?
. Now, I’m all for musicians stretching their limits, but I just think that if they’re gonna do it all on one album there has to be some clever track listing so that the whole thing doesn’t fall apart. For Wolf Alice this problem does sort of go away towards the mid-end half of the album, but that’s only because the songs then fall into the sort of mid-paced melodic indie-rock matched with grungy choruses they’re already known for (where the nicely melodic bits are ruined by the heavy-handed grung-y choruses anyway).
Although, it is true that they’ve implemented some new tricks. Visions of a Life
draws on a wider range of influences and motifs than last time, with some cold post-punk-y synths sticking their head in at points and even a full blown folks-y track in the form of “After the Zero Hour”. Tellingly though, the serene beauty “After the Zero Hour” conveys is rudely disturbed by the closer with its sort of bombastic stadium-rock woaaaah-ness, indicating the final nail in the cohesion coffin as Wolf Alice try to have their cake and eat it.