Last in a clutch of May gigs is this one, kind of a new band for a change! So here’s London’s Wolf Alice, a female fronted band whom I was (unsurprisingly) introduced to by Beef, finding them a challenging yet listenable mix of both shimmering and jagged guitar and vocals, reminding me at their best of my 90’s favourites The Julie Dolphin. A beguiling mix of the smooth and sharp on their small smattering of EPs to date, and therefore so far the most promising new band of this (admittedly fairly barren) year, I was intrigued as to how they’d balance both elements of their sound, “live”. One way to find out…
Beef was out of the country so couldn’t join us, so I travelled up with his mate Dean, taking my turn to drive as payback for Dean driving to Howler a couple of months ago! An early doors run up and a slight delay in Oxford, due to police navigating us around a shunt, nevertheless saw us parking up just after 7.30 in the – for once! – quieter Tescos car park, hitting the venue as openers Gengehr were working through their early numbers. They played some pleasant pastoral indie with some odd chunky guitar riffs which sounded all the more startling in comparison with their usual vibe, and featured a big beefy vocalist with an oddly keening, high pitched voice, reminiscent of Jonsi of Sigur Ros! A passable opener, overall.
Better was to come in the form of main support Superfood, on at 8.30; their opening track “Melting” appropriated the drum intro from the Boo Radleys’ classic “I Hang Suspended”, then bounded into a bouncy slice of Brit-indie pop, with those old fashioned staple virtues of good hooks and vocals, delivered by an impressive young vocalist. “Satellite” also featured a nagging choral hook and some fine harmonies, and the subsequent “Bubbles” was a looser-limbed sway-along with some deliciously discordant riffery. Their eminently tuneful set closed with an eponymous number which featured some heavier riffery and the hook, “you’re always hungry,” which was quite appropriate really, as I was hungry for more Superfood after this bright little gem of a set. Nice one!
The place filled up considerably after Superfood’s set, Wolf Alice’s appeal being evidently a broad one at this juncture – lots of old muso types (like ourselves) mixed in with enthusiastic teenage kids, keyed up and ready to mosh. And the place burst into floor-bouncing life when Wolf Alice took the stage at 9.30 in short order, ripping into the stomping grunge-lite of opener “Moaning Lisa Smile”, keeping up the momentum with the tumbling rhythm and Julie Dolphin-like soaring chorus of the subsequent “She”. That’s how to make an entrance!
Considerably more subdued on their clutch of EP releases to date, Wolf Alice tonight were a snarling animal, much harder-edged and strident “live”, with exciting proto-grunge riffery recalling a whole slew of excellent early 90’s female fronted bands. Whilst the opener “Lisa Smile” had the stomping strut of Veruca Salt, 3rd number “Your Love’s Whore" recalled early Madder Rose, not least in waif-like vocalist Ellie Rowsell’s vocal inflections, and the subsequent mix of the colourful and caustic in “You’re A Germ” was reminiscent of a punkier Magnapop. Original? Hardly, but I couldn’t fault their taste in plagiarism, or their enthusiasm, as they delivered this set with power and pace.
“You guys are great!” proclaimed a breathless Ellie to the young mosh, before calming things down with an ethereal, hushed “Blush”, nevertheless building to a jagged guitar crescendo before melting into a well-observed cover of Chris Isaak’s eerie “Wicked Game”. Final number “Bros” with its’ tumbling guitar riff, got the old room bouncing again, closing out a swift 40 minute set, before the band re-emerged for a crunching finale of “Fluffy”, guitarist Joff Oddie crowdsurfing into the mosh, to conclude an impressive set.
Grabbed the list and got it signed by a polite Ellie, lurking around the merch stand afterwards, before heading off after witnessing a couple of fine new bands still finding their own identities, but treading the boards with style. A couple of names to watch – I’ll certainly be back for more Superfood – and Wolf Alice!