Review: Wolf Alice at the Ritz

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Wolf Alice’s own brand of alternative rock has been notoriously difficult to define. Beginning in 2010 as a folk duo, the addition of a powerful rhythm section developed the band’s sound into a “rocky pop”. Since then the band has been compared to many artists crossing a number of genres. Most commonly they’ve been likened to the plethora of female led grunge bands that emerged in the early to mid 90’s, most often to Courtney Love’s band, Hole. In typical grunge fashion the band have dismissed both that label and their fast rise in the British rock scene. They’ve garnered attention from both the BBC and the NME since the release of their free single ‘Leaving You’ in 2012, and on March 26 they played to a sell out crowd in one of Manchester’s most hallowed grounds, The Ritz.

Crows are a fairly disappointing start to the night; they fall into the trap of being almost entirely indistinguishable from the endless line of punk bands that have come before them. They’re clearly talented musicians, but lacking in energy and originality. Magic Gang deliver a more enjoyable set, bringing their own unique Americanised Britpop (imagine Oasis but louder). Their song ‘No Fun’, is the highlight of pre-Wolf Alice gig, and is contradictorily very fun. The band undoubtedly have potential, it will be interesting to see how they develop their sound further.

The sound is almost deafening as the band enters the stage; bassist Theo Ellis immediately catches the eye dressed (as he often is) in Clockwork Orange-esque whites. For the remainder of the set he and guitarist Joff Oddie throw themselves around the stage in typical punk fashion.  Despite their resistance of the label, it’s hard not to see Wolf Alice as one of the finest grunge bands to have emerged since the early 90’s. They fly through their 50 minute set with a breathless energy, an absolute masterclass in alternative rock. It’s noisy, it’s aggressive, and the band transition perfectly from quiet verses into formidable choruses.

The market for new alternative rock bands is incredibly saturated, but Wolf Alice are surely one of the strongest. Their unique combination of different genres, their knack for incredible melodies and riffs, and their boundless energy all set them a head above the rest. Their engagement with the crowd is minimal; but then again it doesn’t need to be. The crowd are hanging on every syllable: belting out the choruses to Storms, throwing themselves around to ‘Giant Peach’, and even the parents who’d been dragged along by their teenage children were enthused by the explosive chorus of ‘She’.

Ellie Roswell, the bands lead singer and guitarist, is the star of the show, an understated presence between the two energetic guitarists.  Her voice is incredibly versatile; gentle enough to carry the softer songs of the night including, my personal favourite, ‘Blush’, but powerful enough to be heard amongst the crashing of the drums behind her. Her presence is what defines the band, bringing a unique melodic tone to the band’s songs and a noticeably different dynamic to the other acts of the night.

Wolf Alice have an album out this July followed by a number of festival Summer dates; if you get the chance make sure you see them.