Wu-Lyf: The New Cult of Unconditioned Youth by Kim Tarlo
For a long time, people have said that the music industry has changed. And it has changed—it is changing.
In the early 2000s, a new wave of musicians were ushered in by file sharing, MySpace, torrents, blogs…well, you know. We called them indie bands. Members of such bands couldn’t just strum and croon, they had to pull their weight in different ways too; seconding as graphic artists, web designers, social media (god help me) gurus, self-promoters and beyond. The people previously hired to fill these roles were losing their major label desk jobs in a hurry. As fans gained more control, labels lost theirs. Suits rolled up their sleeves to fight the times and lost—and, the mud on their faces didn’t come out in the wash.But we all know this story by now.The point of me bringing it up though is this: today, fans can not only access (take) music freely and easily through one click downloads but they can also tell the world exactly what they think of it and access bands whenever they’re so inclined. The artist has nowhere to hide. Gone is their mystique and mystery.
Enter Wu Lyf.
Manchester’s “World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation” is one of the most elusive up and coming bands in recent history. Music writers everywhere have hammered away on their keyboards trying to decide whether to love them or hate them. As the insatiable media has seen it, the Lyf is sticking it to them. How? Simply by doing nothing—no interviews, no photographs, no tours, no meat to bite their teeth into. And yet, everyone can’t stop talking about them. It doesn’t help matters (well, actually it does) that they appeared to be more of a cult than a rock and roll band.
Their website is a cryptic manifesto, an obscure edict of unrelenting decrees and defiant dogmas. It includes a call for fans to join the Lyf by sending $20 in exchange for a “Heavy Pop/Concrete Gold, a bandit flag of allegiance, an inked out statement of intent, discounted admission to all ‘PLAY HEAVY POP’ shows worldwide and open armed involvement and a democratic input with all LYF activity”. There’s nothing enigmatic about that. No album out and labels everywhere were on their scent. But it was a fruitless hunt; Wu Lyf recorded and produced their debut album independently and outside of a studio. They set up shop in Saint Peter’s, an abandoned church in Ancoats, Manchster, to create Go Tell Fire to the Mountain. It’s rumored that they even charged A&R departments 50£ for a demo. The full record was released to praises from critics, but more importantly, it changed their game completely.Since the album’s release back in June, Wu Lyf is finally exposing themselves. Interviews are flying and a massive world tour is underway—with a staggering 48 stops in total.
The veil has been lifted, and now we can all stop talking about what they haven’t done and focus on what they have done. For one, they’ve created an album that is conclusively a soundtrack to their reputation. From start to finish images of a united gang with clenched fists bound together by ideals march through your mind. It is an impassioned, urgent and incomparable piece of work. The vocals, or battle cries of utterances, have no predecessor in likeness. The lyrics are indistinct, a thread of indecipherable sounds, but knowingly cathartic simply because of how they feel when they storm inside you. The arrangements are epic and moving—literally, you can’t help but physically move around to it, but this isn’t dance music. It’s as if you’re standing in the wild at the entrance of a cave and everything is dark. Deep inside is a dim light. Echoes of legions are being heard in the distance, deep in the cavern’s belly. You realize you are listening to a savage call to arms accompanied by a five-piece, an organ and voices that are bouncing off the place of origin’s walls. And as they chant together, they march. They’re coming towards you. You’re trying to make sense of it, but that’s pointless. You just have a choice to make. You can either join them or get the hell out of the way.
At a time when there’s an exhausted saturation of up and coming bands that are fighting tooth and nail for attention and yet are more disposable to fans than ever, Wu Lyf has been able to make a truly profound impression by moving to the beat of their own feral drum. They became a persistent itch cloaked in mystery by building their reputation on the idea that less is more. Then the ‘unconditioned youth’, as they call themselves, backed it up with a truly exciting album. I have to admit, as far as cults go; this one seems pretty damn good.