REVIEW: WYLDLIFE – YEAR OF THE SNAKE (2020)

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I’d love to say Wyldlife – out of NYC – were a band that I’d known about from the beginning. But, in a funny way, that “Year Of The Snake” is their second record, only underlines the unshakeable belief I have that doing this website is the greatest hobby in the world.

After all, it is only because of this website that people send me records this good.

To get down to the nub of the matter. “Year Of The Snake” rules.

Emerging on Little Steven’s Wicked Cool Records, a stamp of coolness if ever there was one, it’s 11 songs are something close to Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady, Fountains Of Wayne and Cheap Trick all jamming on punk songs.

And if that doesn’t sound like your bag, then that’s fine. Just means more fun for the rest of us.

Thing is, like all the best, although you pick out the influences, the four piece do it their own way. Perhaps this is best evidenced in their lyrics – which are incredible – but also in the fact that guitarist Sam Allen co-produces the thing, as if seeing the vision through to the end.

So happy does “Deathbed” sound, so incongruously full of life, you don’t even notice the chorus with its matter of fact: “My deathbed is a place where nobody can control me, my deathbed is a place where you and I don’t have to feel lonely anymore.”

If that sneaks up on you with the most mighty suckerpunch, then the solo doesn’t. I was watching a documentary on Oasis the other night. I like the band a lot – especially the debut record – but there’s one thing that always stopped them being as cool as they thought they were. Noel Gallagher played his guitar too high up his body. Listen to the lick here, I’ve never seen Wyldlife but if Allen hasn’t got it low down below his knees like Keith Richards or Slash, I’ll be amazed.

If this frequently touches brilliance, then its never better than “Neon Nightmare” (“I dropped my acoustic tendencies, picked up electric habits” offers Dave Feldman here) and music doesn’t get catchier than this.

There’s just something natural here, about the lyrical flair, about the seemingly effortless hooks, about the melodies. I am sure they work tirelessly, of course, but “Get Well” sounds so live it might have been done in one take. That’s how they have managed to bottle this, somehow. “Kiss And Tell” which will doubtless be brilliant to hear on stage, sees them find some Biters style lip curl – and this time, another one of those sloganeering hooks is only bettered by the essence of rock n roll: “three day weekend? Four day bender….”

“Automatic” slows things down to mid-paced and has radio hit all over it, “Crime Of The Scene” adds something of The Stones, casts them as master criminals, before conceding “alright it was GTA….” But the spirit is willing, that’s for sure.

The most punk of them all “Sacré Bleu” also arguably contains if not the best line here, then certainly the one that caused me to go: “He didn’t? Did he?” and the answer is yes. So hats off indeed to any opening two lineS that goes: “I took a trip back to Paris, France, I went looking for a fair French kiss. I went looking for a new romance, yeah, but they all had hairy pits.” There is simply nothing I can add.

Hats off too, to the rhythm section. Stevie Dios on drums and Spencer Alexander on bass, who anchor this down, and the title track is built around one of their grooves, and “Tulsa Superstar” is power pop right from the Premier League, as if to emphasise the real melting pot this is.

“Keeping Up With C.T” comes complete with some perfect organ to give it a 60s touch, and anyone who remembers Marah fondly might be wise to start with this one.

“The Falcon” builds with some real menace, as if its waiting to explode, and it also means that the record takes one final turn. The way this one is delivered recalls the LA rock scene about 1986. Faster Pussycat would be proud of the trash n roll here.

“Ride in the Falcon, we ain’t coming down!” sneers Feldman, and it is tempting to think of Wyldlife as some glitter cannon being shot across the night sky, as a beacon to herald better times. In the title track they discussed the ambition: “By the time I left the womb, I was curled up inside my tomb. I decided I would take this world by storm.”

I hope they do it. They deserve to.

Rating 9.5/10

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