It’s an odd one, is January: widely renowned as that most innately depressing of months, once the turkey sweats have been swept aside and the end of years have all, well, ended you’re left with the bare bones of boredom with little, to nothing to pick from. Unless, of course, you just so happen to hold that most desirous of occupations in A&R: often sighted somewhere or other dingy about these parts though never seen to be particularly engaged by anything in particular, the scout is something of a rare and enigmatic breed. And with the inevitable litany of Ones to Watch lists forecasting the coming year routinely segueing those critiquing that to have gone before it, the job is arguably made all the more facile right around now. It is apparently as such that London’s nigh on every one is tonight crammed into an increasingly cramped upstairs of a figuratively bulging Old Blue Last.
Wolf Alice (or wool phallus if you slur it, or blurt it with an unbounded über enthusiasm as many later do) featured on umpteen online 2013 prophesies, and tonight head up the first of four in a revelatory showcase series put on by none other than DIY offshoot Neu. Kitty Empire, a healthy hunk of NME personnel, and some of the keenest ears in the capital are in the house; the front row comprises more camera than it does carnal flesh. There’s hype alright, and Alice is ready to see the Wolf – salivating gnashers ‘n’ all.
Though as with any so-called buzz band of any given point in time, it’s pretty necessary to first ascertain just how firm the foundations are upon which the furore has been built. In the case of Wolf Alice, to flippantly suggest that theirs appear to be rather robust would arguably be the understatement of this fledgling year thus far. For the north London outfit not only have the songs (from the dusty, sporadically clunky drawls of Leaving You to the visceral, drool-inducing Nosedive which precedes it, whilst consistently exemplary there’s also a striking versatility to their songsmithery), but with that an almost unfeasibly convincing live show for a band still more or less in utero, proverbially speaking. It’s astonishingly accomplished start through finish, even under this most intense of scrutinies.
Though the two fangs to Wolf Alice’s heavily tousled four prong sonic onslaught are tonight explicitly elucidated as an unabashed penchant for the ’90s (both Bros and White Leather carry chunks of Blind Melon in their threadbare, lax denim back pockets with the latter also coming thick, fast, and caked in Mudhoney influence), and of course lead vocalist Ellie Rowsell. Rowsell, to all extensive purposes, is Wolf Alice which in turn renders Wolf Alice a jejune naïveté incarnate, with a refined nous to match. She struggles with a recalcitrant mic both between and during each and every song, gurgling resonant yeahs in a phoney Yank accent and howling endearingly from time to time too. And whilst their strident musical ruckus may be slack, her vocal is tight right where it hurts most. Aesthetically, hers are the deep-set, darkened peepers of a sullied seductress smouldering beneath an adolescent pigtail rocketing from the top of her skull as she comes to resemble a smudged amalgam of every one of Amy Heckerling’s female protagonists. She looks fucking fantastic in short and sounds better yet, and the momentary outbreaks of smirk which burst across her pallid features insinuate she just about now knows it.
Though for all the scratchy riffs and dissonant rebellion mongering relayed, by the time they come to thrash through Fluffy they’ve barely touched twenty. As an entity, they’re anything but Fluffy. Conversely, they’re as fierce, and indeed fearsome as the moniker may intimate and as Debaser prematurely breaks out over the PA, it’s hard not to entertain the notion of Wolf Alice swiftly becoming a force to be reckoned with this year. That they can announce themselves in such a concise manner before what is not so much a who’s who, but more of an everyone who’s anyone only adds gravitas to the thought and although they may sonically rally against the preconceived concept of guitars being something of a dying stock, and tonight do battle too with the apathy endemic of the upper echelons of the industry to which the instrument allegedly no longer belongs Rowsell et al. may well be the exception to the rule. A genuinely exceptional one at that they are, too. They’ll be entangled in the wicked ways of said industry sooner than you can smear Clueless over the innards of your DVD player, and on this sort of evidence it’s safe to say that the faith of every A&R, online hack, etc. here congregated has in no way been misplaced.