Tropic of Youth are as new as their name suggests. From a little research, the singer had previously gigged solo under the name General Wolf, having played the folk stage at Tramlines a couple of years back. Well this band is anything but folk; taking in African polyrhythms on ‘We Can’, it’s filled with frantic effervescence and it’s well, ace. The first couple of tunes do suggest that they are going to plough very much a Vampire Weekend-esque furrow, but they do have other tricks up their sleeves.
On ‘Never Hurt’ the guitars are both choppy and chime-y; the dynamic that served Pavement so well, and it’s just as well there is a grit to it because it otherwise bears more than a passing resemblance to Coldplay.
The singer – who, seeing as Google has failed me, I am going to have to refer to as The General – mostly sings in an upper register, until ‘Post Youth’ when he suddenly opens up a roar like Yan from British Sea Power, back when they were still jittery and noisy. He also, however, does the meekest off-stage walkabout that I’ve ever seen, but like I say, they are new. Most importantly, their songs have achingly bittersweet hooks – and they have them in spades. So if they haven’t quite nailed down a cohesive sound yet, we can forgive them.
Distracted as I was by the Deb-from-Napoleon-Dynamite side-ponytail worn by engaging frontwoman Ellie Roswell, I can’t help but feel that Wolf Alice are 90s kids, if not actually, then spiritually.
It would be too easy to pigeonhole them in with the riot grrl movement; there are clear similarities to Sleater Kinney, and early PJ Harvey, although more thrillingly (for this writer anyway) in their heavier moments I hear Superchunk. But here’s the thing; they can really play. The drummer stops and starts; pounds the drums with a fury, somehow having the wherewithal to coo along during ‘Rose’, whilst the guitarist generates squalls of noise, battering the whammy bar into submission at times. Roswell herself has serious range, sweeping from the understated, soulful, almost husky whisper of ‘White Leather’ to something more full throated.
They have all the ingredients to be killer, but it feels like they haven’t got the songs to push through the invisible barrier separating the pub tourers from those making a splash on the national circuit. Unfortunately, there’s just nothing that remarkable here.
Until the final song: ‘Fluffy’, which is an absolute jackhammer of massive guitars and pounding drums; just a great ball of noisy chaos, and it shakes my very bones. It’s a true measure of their potential. The quiet/loud, stop/start Pixies tropes are in full force, yet they don’t feel forced or contrived. If it’s a signpost for what’s to come, then more power to them. It seems obvious that this is what generated the buzz, as the industry won’t fluff itself, y’know.