I still haven’t a fookin’ clue what Wu Lyf singer Ellery Roberts is on about when he sings.
I mean, it’s like the lad has a bag of snooker balls rammed inside his gob and he’s chanting stuff that doesn’t even compute when you read the lyrics. A repeated promise, like in “Dirt” of ”Go tell fire” ends up sounding like “Ah woon-teh fie! AH!”, but that’s WU LYF for you. They don’t need to make sense – they’re a band of bolshy Mancunian 20s on their first North American tour, and all they really need to do is live up to the hype set out before them by chin-stroking European music writers.
After all, World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation coulda just been full of crap: they wouldn’t be the first band to carefully customize their story/mystery for maximum impact.
And six months ago, I had that very same debate with myself. Shit or good? Debut album Go Tell Fire to the Mountain is filled with drums that sound like they’re being hit with a mace, early Stone Rose/shoegaze guitar and THAT MARBLE-MOUTHED VOICE of Ellery spitting out anthems. It was…a bit samey across all tracks, but still kinda different overall. Do we need another young British band with a meticulously crafted anti-image? Uh, yeah, why not?
So there they are, up on stage at Vancouver’s Electric Owl, for the first time, and the place is rammed. Who, other than a smattering of Anglophiles, have heard of these guys? The sold-out crowd, apparently. I’m not caught out often, but this surprises me.
By the time openers Crystal Antlers complete their fuzzy neo-post-current-whatever-psychedelia set, and WU leave us hanging for nearly an hour, it’s a quarter-past-feral, and the audience of mostly boys and chaps with beards are two drinks beyond the fun threshold. They chant “WU-LIFE! WU-LIFE!” (but those of us in the real know, know it’s WU-LIFF, that’s how Ellery sez it), braying for the lads to get on stage. I reckon the boys are backstage drinking, ‘cos when they do materialize, Ellery croaks (and I do mean 20-packs-of-Marlboros-a-day croaks) that he’s kinda wankered.
The expectation is high. For some of us, really high. Maybe too high? I’m excited but my arms are metaphorically crossed. OH GODS DON’T LET THEM DISAPPOINT.
So they hop on (Ellery on vocals, keys, Joe on drums, Evans on guitar, Tom on bass) and Ellery’s voice rumbles like Tom Waits with an electrolarynx. Then the drums go and the guitar goes, and while most of the mumble sound the same, there’s anthems in there, and the crowd is going mental. And by mental I mean, shirts are off onstage, shirts are off offstage, the crowd’s jumping and pushing in, and one scraggler decides for some reason to stand right up at the front with his middle finger up, and in Ellery’s face. When Ellery politely barks “Can ye stop doing that? It’s fookin’ annoyin’” and when Evans says “Vancouvah, ye’ve got a beyoutiful citeh, but there’s one knucklehead innit. That guy. He’s a bein’ a dick,” the security guards move in to prepare for kick off. Mountain man eventually starts a punch up in the crowd…then gets extricated at speed of light.
But that’s okay. “Cave Song”, “Spitting Blood” and “Concrete Gold” and “LYF” all sounded good enough to distract. “Heavy Pop” was introduced by Ellery by way of “We are the foundation…this is the foundation. You are the foundation.” Yeah…whatever. But “Dirt”? AH WOON TEH FIE AH!/WORLD/ U-NIGH-AH/ LOVE YOU FA EVAH”!!!! Pretty damn BIG.
And just when the tick box of “huh, actually meets expectation” was about to be checked, they come on with the chant “We Bros” for their final encore. The crowd is shouting the chorus (or some close approximation) back at ‘em, Ellery showers them with water, invites a girl (later to be attached to his hip) up on stage to grind in front of ‘em, then stagedives into the small club’s crowd. It’s not new, and it’s not terribly clever, but it is fun. You can see for yourself in the iPhone video I took from sidestage below.
WU LYF: Expectation exceeded. Go tell fire to the mountain. \m/