A rare success story in this era of British guitar music’s managed decline, Wolf Alice’s ambitions stretch far beyond the old genre labels, not only hoping to top this week’s album charts with their second album, but also set to squeak into the box office Top 10 as the subjects of Michael Winterbottom’s not-quite-rock-doc On the Road. It’s indicative of a freewheeling outlook that sets them apart from more orthodox arena-bothering peers like Royal Blood.
Visions of a Life sees the band refine the exuberant jumble of dream-pop and grunge that characterised their debut My Love is Cool, while also finding new areas of exploration, from Drive soundtrack synthpop (Don’t Delete the Kisses) to snarling punk (Yuk Foo) and everything in between. Reigning over all is guitarist-vocalist Ellie Roswell, a hugely charismatic presence in the style of 90s alt-rock heroines like Juliana Hatfield or Kristin Hersh, who spends much of her time here vacillating between lobbing sardonic spitballs from the back of the classroom and picking away at the scab of her own insecurity. “Head way up in a storm cloud / calm but so extreme”, she sings on the Heathers-referencing Beautifully Unconventional. Either way, she and Wolf Alice are never dull.
Wolf Alice: Visions of a Life review – exuberant guitar-driven genre jumble