29 Jul 2015

CULT CLASSIC ALBUMS #5 - WU LYF - Go Tell Fire To The Mountain

alternative vinyl-only cover
The last straight-up indie rock band to really do something special, for me, is the elusive, now sadly split-up WU LYF. Formed in the latter half of the 2000's (as in the decade, duh), WU LYF were a Manchester band that strayed far from the spotlight, notoriously creating a lot of mysticism around them for that very reason. They weren't really big on social media, or revealing their names, or anything like that, and I think because this led to them having a devout following that's still there now, they're really one of British music's last (as in latest) cult bands. They were reluctant to release anything about them to the press, declined major labels to self-record their one and only album, and their fierce DIY ethic is something that each and every band should look up to.

They released one album that received mixed critical reviews when it came out, but more importantly it led to lots and lots of people falling in love with the mystical Manchester quartet, hence the fact that, to about 0.1% of teenage indie music fans, WU LYF are like, everything.

Go Tell Fire To the Mountain sounds, well, huge, and open, and vast, because it was recorded in an echoey old church to combat the bog-standard sound they were making in the studio. And the instrumentation adds to that, with Ellery James Roberts' (frontman) righteous organ prevalent all the way through, and the drums sound being completely distant and primal.

And it's brought into another world with Roberts' barked vocals - they're animalistic, halfway between a ravenous, barking wolf and Tom Waits absolutely on one (see the track Whistling Past the Graveyard off his Blue Valentine album for what I mean). It's completely out there, reaching proper Zappa-y-Beefheart-y levels of unstoppable charisma, and from the first barks of L Y F to the last grunts of Heavy Pop, Roberts' vocals are completely encapsulating.

WU LYF are powerful, and their music is even more so; no more is this apparent than on We Bros. An uplifting, beautiful song, it's not just Roberts' barked vocals that do the job here, but it's the beautiful collaboration when the band members sing along together, and it never, ever fails to give me goosebumps. It's got a beautiful kinda comradery to it, wait, no - a beautiful kinship to it.

Such a sad puppy dog starts off with the same organ that just washes over you as the listener, before the drums get a-marching, and the song progresses into a beautiful moment of reflection for the band. Similarly, the tranquil intro to Concrete Gold, despite Roberts' impassioned vocals, is amongst the most beautiful pieces of music created post-2010, with it's last few piano chimes haunting you right to the very core.

On this album, nigh on every track is a classic; it'll take you more than a few listens to warm to it, because for a potentially commercially viable indie record, it's pretty challenging - I mean I really didn't like this, or them at first. 14 Crowns For Me & Your Friends is deeply forlorn, and creates a real atmosphere, without the lyrics being in any way comprehensible. At the same time, the beautiful closer Heavy Pop does exactly the same thing - it's raw, it's heartfelt, and by it's conclusion you're left short of breath at the amazing LP you just witnessed.

Not long after the release of this record, we're talking about a year, WU LYF split up in typical WU LYF fashion; a letter, and a beautiful new song T R I U M P H. It's really terrible to see a band that could have given us so much amazing music split, but I guess the fact this (assuming you don't count this free demo collection you can nab by joining this group) is the only real remnant of one of the 21st century's most magical bands makes it even more special. It's easy to get lost in the myths and pretensions that the press thrusted onto this band, but ultimately, if you just let the music do the talking, get ready to fall in love with this band and everything about them.

here's a contemporary (mid-2010) unraveling of the band if you wanna try understand what it was like unpiecing the WU LYF enigma - give it a read

hear the full album on youtube here

read the rest of our cult classics series
1. sparklehorse - vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
2. explosions in the sky - the earth is not a cold dead place
3. grandaddy - the sophtware slump
4. ambulance ltd - lp

(written by calum cashin)