WU LYF Go Tell Fire To The Mountain(LYF Recordings) Buy it from Insound
The hype that WU LYF have generated has, it’s fair to say, backfired a bit. I must admit, I was taken in by their mystique: the lack of information about them or even the actual music, their mythological acronym-name, that single cult-like picture on their website that at the time seemed to be the sole clue to their identity. I figured the music must be amazing if they’d merited so much attention without the self-promotion you can see on a million unremarkable bands’ Myspace accounts. But as the hype swelled the enigma of WU LYF unravelled. To capitalise on the fame they signed themselves over to Universal publishing to finance the record, and while it eventually came out on their own label LYF Recordings, you can’t help but feel that they’ve undermined their punk principles.
While it may seem somewhat shallow for me to devote my first paragraph to debunking their image while ignoring the music, realistically, the reason WU LYF are famous is because of their publicist. Music is largely context, and I find it hard to ignore the cynical side of me that baulks at the idea of a band called “World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation”. But I also feel like Go Tell Fire To The Mountain relies on that cult-like construct of WU LYF the entity.
It helps that their sound is original and Ellery Roberts’ vocals are rough, rasping, animalistic – I could think of a hundred adjectives to describe his voice. He sings in a truncated form of English that feels almost like some sort of primal language, the words unrecognisable until you find the lyrics posted on their website. It’s odd because their lyrics are so punk and so vital to their message, but are deliberately obscured in Roberts’ delivery, further concealed by an omnipresent aura of reverb-y organ; it reflects their withholding of identification to the press. Go Tell Fire was recorded live in a church, and it sounds earthy, echoey, nearly impenetrable. The odd phrase rings through – “Love you forever” leaps beautifully out of the growled vowels of opener L Y F, in a song that (if you read the lyrics sheet) introduces the album’s main theme of revolution.
What I love about this record is how much you can feel this band desperately yearning for social and political change. It’s about dissatisfaction with the desensitised normality of society – it’s littered with emotional language as an attempt to break free from the void of the city. We Bros is their anthemic statement of brotherly kinship against capitalism: “You try to put suits on animals but we bros”. The song’s coda drops away as if in fear of the “mountain” that must be climbed, before the instruments hesitantly return, with a true sense of unity.
The aesthetic wears a little thin by the end though, and the record feels longer than it is. The songs all follow a similar blueprint, and it’s disappointing that WU LYF haven’t developed much from their earlier singles (although Dirt is probably the most perfect approximation of their sound so far). The imagery of fire and mountains is repeated until it loses its power. It gets predictable: the driving drums always build, propelling each song to a chanted conclusion. The impact of the initial, mysterious glimpses of WU LYF is lost on this full-length.
Nonetheless, Go Tell Fire has glimmers of brilliance. It’s fiercely romantic, and WU LYF’s fight against the system often feels as monumental as their promotion would suggest. The way they attempt to reinvent the idea of the rock band is admirable but quixotic; they’re intriguing but way overhyped. The album is buried in just a bit too much sonic obscurity – their arrangements are at first elating, but eventually frustrating.20 June, 2011 - 08:30 — Stephen Wragg