In this climate of media saturation and social network overload, it's a near impossibility to remain under the radar long enough to develop an ethos or identity all of one's own making without all cover being blown. Yet, fighting against the tide and for the most part conquering intently, Manchester's WU LYF have carved a niche for themselves merely through being enigmatic. In fact, there was a point not so long ago where rumours were rife that the project was little more than an elaborate hoax, a figment of some marketing man's devilish imagination. Until their demos started appearing online. Because of course, regardless of the way any product is advertised or sold, the quality of the music itself has to be of a high enough standard to justify any hyperbole in the first place.
Their story is one of those DIY fantasies pretty much anyone embarking on a career in music for the right reasons can only dream of. Hometown gigs for a Â£1 a throw, a backstreet cafÃ© serving as the band's meeting base, no mainstream advertisements whatsoever and of course up until recently, a complete blanket ban on speaking to anyone from the media about the band. Even the name, WU LYF, is shrouded in mystery, taking on the form of two acronyms ("World Unite" and "Lucifer Youth Foundation" respectively). Their manager is responsible for one of the most forward-thinking marketing agencies of the 21st Century and its clear that without his input, the band could not have kept up this faÃ§ade and survived for so long. But once again, we wouldn't be wasting our time or anybody else's if it weren't for the songs, and boy, do WU LYF possess an abundance of such treasures.
Having adopted a raison d'etre based on a similar model to Barcelona Football Club in that WU LYF is for and universally owned by the people, their no recording contract or licensing deal makes them quite unique in what is essentially a financially driven climate. Sure, they've not gone against the grain totally: Universal Publishing added them to their roster several months ago, having spotted the obvious potential both as artists and protagonists.
While little information has surfaced regarding the recording and production of 'Go Tell Fire To The Mountain', it would be fair to say that the significant progress both as studio artists and songwriters can be traced from those raw early demos to where they are now. Several of the songs, which leaked via the web, have been completely re-vamped here, in particular 'Cave Song', formerly known as 'Nic Cave' while the band used the pseudonym Vagina Wolf. Now double the length and shrouded in twice the mystique, Evans Kati's jangling guitar playfully energising Ellery Roberts' often illegible lyrics, while the precise rhythm section of Tom McClung and Joe Manning cut through the debris with the pinpoint accuracy of guillotines.
Closing epic 'Heavy Pop', the band's anthem and clarion call from the start also finds itself elongated for the purpose of the record. Right from its prominent status as the best song from their embryonic days, it stands head and shoulders above its flawless compatriots here, Roberts screaming like a teenage Van Morrison "I wanna feel like home!" while the band's elegiac soundscape provides a backdrop of twists and turns not unlike British Sea Power circa 'Lately' or the late lamented Hope Of The States. While this is as good as it gets, we're talking superlatives like exceptional here rather than just average praise.
The way 'Go Tell Fire To The Mountain' kicks off sets intentions immediately, a church organ leading the way for 'LYF', its hypnotic build up cascading in a dystopian whirl of truncated guitars and incendiary percussion, Roberts imploring "I love you forever" repeatedly. Likewise the funereal 'Such A Sad Puppy Dog', another older song that first surfaced late last year. While there's an almost requiem-like feel to it, its difficult to envisage where the ideas for songs such as this emanate from. Roberts's vocal again largely inaudible, after several listens one suspects he's talking about moon cats or some other fictitious creature but then probably isn't. Whatever, the shuffling drums and angelic guitar twang represent more going on here than on the entire back catalogue of many peers and contemporaries.
'Summas Bliss' and 'We Bros' both augment a slight change in direction, the former taking a similar 4x4 beat trajectory to Foals while the latter places itself in more African territories like a less ubiquitous Vampire Weekend. While many bands who've taken the same route have plagiarised the aforementioned and failed spectacularly, WU LYF use such glitch-ridden effects to their advantage, complementing each admittedly reticent syllable Roberts barks out in anger. One notable facet of 'Go Tell Fire To The Mountain' is the omnipresent use of rhythmic percussion as a lead instrument, something that is none more evident than on 'Spitting Blood', another of the tracks that got us weak at the knees in the latter half of 2010. "We are so happy" cries Roberts, and he should well be, as there's nothing here to be dismissive or curt about.
'Dirt', the band's "other" anthem of sorts, takes a more pop blessed overview, clocking in at a regulatory three minutes. Again buoyed by chiming guitars and a spacious backbeat, Roberts tormented howl spitting out "Mum and Dad, look what you done to me, I was your baby boy, now watch me bleed". 'Concrete Gold' meanwhile delivers a chilling message within its heavenly mantra, "If only I'd died." being its central lyrical theme. '14 Crowns For Me & Your Fr' takes a more laidback approach while continuing the record's sombre theme into the final third, only briefly rejoicing in its own autobiographical lament, "Everybody wants you, and everybody needs you." And how the UK music industry really does need WU LYF at this moment in time.
Sure, there will always be those doom mongers insistent that there's little more than a growing avalanche of hype surrounding the Mancunian four-piece, yet listening to 'Go Tell Fire To The Mountain' (and trust me we have, many times!) it really is difficult to offer any kind of criticism, be that constructive or otherwise. Maybe the odd diehard will be disappointed live favourite 'Lucifer Calling' didn't make the final cut here, but then by the same token it would be nigh-on impossible to replace any of the ten songs here. While only halfway through 2011, the likelihood of a better debut being released this year is low in the extreme. Not only is 'Go Tell Fire To The Mountain' something of a triumph over adversity, it's also a smartly constructed two fingers up at the music industry, and for that along with everything else, we salute its presence greatly.