Album review: "Go Tell Fire to the Mountain"
Wu Lyf's sound, reminiscent of early-'80s U2, reaches for the stars with its ringing guitar, parade-ground drums and echo-laden sonics. But Ellery Roberts's croaking vocals yank it all back to Earth. His voice will separate admirers of the band's storming debut, "Go Tell Fire to the Mountain," from those who never want to hear it again.
The Manchester, England, quartet hasn't ignored recent alt-rock developments. The drum-circle vibe suggests Yeasayer; Evans Kati's guitar flirts with Afropop in the manner of Dirty Projectors; and the instrumental passages emulate symphonic-rock combos such as Mono. But the stately rhythm and reverbed-piano intro of "Heavy Pop" recall Phil Spector's '60s girl-group classics, and Roberts's pipe organ evokes music even older than that.
Recorded in an abandoned church for maximum resonance, the album aspires to be a communal experience. And the shout-along crescendos of "We Bros." and "Concrete Gold" are as fully galvanizing as the band intends.
If only Roberts could deliver actual words as expressively as he does "aah-aah" and "oh-oh-oh." Then Wu Lyf's furious sound might signify something.
--Mark Jenkins, Nov. 4, 2011