The most interesting thing about Manchester’s Wu Lyf has been its canny use of the media in the months leading up to the release of its debut, Go Tell Fire To The Mountain. Introducing itself to the ravenous British press via a mysterious band photo that obscured the group members’ faces with smoke and white bandanas, Wu Lyf has aggressively asserted anonymity (and shown an aversion to interviews), which stands out against the 24/7 celebrity confessional of the social-media age. By seemingly shunning hype, Wu Lyf was actually embracing one of the oldest show-biz tropes of all: Always leave them wanting more. That sense of mystery carries over to Go Tell Fire To The Mountain, as does the wanting more.
Distinguished by the unpredictable yelping Tourette’s act of singer Ellery Roberts, Wu Lyf makes frequently stirring music that hints at a deeper, unseen power the group can never fully conjure. Like Kiss—another band whose members understood the marketing value of keeping their faces hidden—Wu Lyf is an acronym with Satanic overtones: World Unite! Lucifer Youth Foundation. But for all the outsider posturing, Mountain is a pretty conventional indie-rock record circa 2011, drawing on celebrated warhorses like Arcade Fire’s Funeral and Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, as well as somewhat less fashionable sources, like Vampire Weekend and Kings Of Leon. (Roberts, intentionally or not, is doing an exaggerated impression of Caleb Followill’s mush-mouthed drawl.)
Songs like “We Bros” and “Heavy Pop” are continent-wide and rousing by default, the inevitable result of the well-tested combination of tribal drumming and shivering, slowly ascending guitar lines. It’s a big sound, though an overly familiar one, and Wu Lyf’s members are still trying to wrap their arms around it and carry it to a different place.