WU LYF (aka World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation) initially appeared to be an enigma of uncertain origin. Only one band photo was released, where they looked like a hipster, anarchist cult, gathered by a fire in a car park, ready for some rolling skirmishes with some riot police.
The band have retained their independence, self-recorded their first album, Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, and did not sign with any of the labels who have been falling over themselves to recruit them. Instead, they have a distribution deal with Universal Music Publishing. Music reviewers, however, have been getting exercised about whether WU LYF really is a DIY, garage phenomenon, or if they’re actually backed by a cleverly presented marketing campaign. After all, their manager has been revealed as Warren Bramley, founder of advertising firm four23.
Go Tell Fire To The Mountain eases listeners in with the calm organ build up of “L Y F”. As with most of the album, there is an underlying tension to the song, with the lyrics being delivered in yelped bursts like early Modest Mouse. It seems likely the L Y F of this song stands for “Love You Forever” as that becomes the main refrain of the song, and the video they released ends with the same phrase delivered by Tupac Shakur. They come back to the same words later in the album on the track “Dirt” which closes with a rowdy looping chorus of “World Unite / Love You Forever”.
The second track released by WU LYF, complete with a video, was called “Spitting It Concrete Like The Golden Sun God” (called simply “Spitting Blood” on the album). According to the NME, the combination of music and video with this release prompted Michel Gondry to start cold-calling the band to find out more.
The LP was recorded in a church and the album is inspired by weightier issues than most indie pop. Subverted religious iconography and political protests feature prominently in WU LYF videos and their website. And, across all the media they produce, they present a youthful dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Their sound and shows give them the air of lazy revolutionaries, with lyrics steeped in elemental references (it doesn’t stop with the album title) and the language of ‘protest folk’ railing against some sort of abstract societal oppression. The lyrics of “Dirt” again seem to reflect the album and indeed band in microcosm, “The fire starts / Can you hear the sound? / Of the kids all calling / I won’t hold this crown”.
Despite trying to communicate some weighty concepts, the whole album retains an upbeat, danceable tempo. Most tracks in fact follow a similar tempo for the verses, with the beat knocking off to half pace to give an epic feel to either bridge or chorus, which becomes somewhat predictable, while still affecting.
Early single “Concrete Gold” has this trademark slowed down chorus with Pixies-era Frank Black / Isaac Brock barks typically littering the song. The vocals eventually descend into an unstructured chorus of chants that seem to only loosely relate to the backing music, generating a pleasant dissonance, which is another recurring theme of the album.
One of the striking vibes of the LP is the apparent camaraderie of the band, which is also reflected in titles like “We Bros” and played out in the compelling and catchy singalong choruses that also reflect despair and subversion. The overall effect is like polished versions of Pere Ubu or The Teardrop Explodes songs, but delivered with gruff, barely distinguishable vocals and with a ramshackle Jonathan Fire*Eater-esque rhythm-led backing.
Throughout the 10 tracks of this debut, WU LYF never seem to fully let rip. There is always a strange sense of control to the music, even when the vocals try to soar. It’s a great debut from a young band, but I really hope their sophomore efforts will be wilder.
If the vampire gang from The Lost Boys ever formed a band, they’d sound like this when they played the town hall. But I want to hear how they sound when they’re playing just for the bats in their cave.