It's hard to envision an album more perfectly calibrated to the sensibilities of contemporary indie-rock fans than this debut by a willfully mysterious Manchester group. Recorded in a church? Check. Indistinguishable lyrics, emotively sung? Check. Angular guitar figures and an omnipresent, melancholy organ? Check and check.
If not for the insidious rhythms and seductively apocalyptic tone, Go Tell Fire to the Mountain might be a hollow compilation of free-floating musical signifiers. Instead, this potpourri is actually one of the year's stronger indie-rock offerings. Singer Ellery Roberts' guttural barks bolster the muscular, surging beats of "We Bros" while proving malleable and delicate enough to support the wistful, absurdly titled "Such a Sad Puppy Dog."
Meanwhile, Roberts' Strummer-cum-Beefheart yelps mask an intriguing worldview. Lyrically, WU LYF offers a jaundiced outlook toward cities and capital. From the cacophonous, militant "Dirt," where "no matter what they said / dollar is not your friend," to the operatic, cathartic "Heavy Pop," which closes the album with an earnest plea ("I wanna feel at home"), the group aligns themselves as the alienated youth that capitalist societies unwittingly cultivate.
Is this—the quasi-Marxist posturing, the indie-rock highlight reels—disingenuous? That's an impossible query to resolve, but it does not make the album less-appealing. There's true musical talent on display in the subtle incorporation of the snaky bass line in opener "L Y F" that renders the album's stickier ethics moot. Why our narrator is "Spitting Blood" is an underlying tension that neither needs resolution nor sabotages this debut's potency.