Wolf Alice Visions of a Life album coverWolf Alice at Howler, Melbourne, Tuesday July 16, 2019.

Callum Newton’s bedroom project Candy sees him joined by four friends on stage (including a violinist) and we’re obsessed with their range of hairdos (especially Newton’s pudding-bowl cut). Those in attendance are charmed by their presence and when Newton warns us he’ll perform a few solos since he’s spent a fortune on guitar lessons, it’s endearing. Newton snapshots personal observations and wistful reflections through song and their extended closer is victorious. Check out Candy’s slide guitar-featuring song Familiar, during which delightful, bouncy melodies juxtapose melancholy subject matter that pays tribute to Newton’s late grandmother who lived with dementia and is sadly no longer with us. Candy play sweet songs with a lot of heart.

Howler becomes Sardine Town while we await Wolf Alice and we’re beside ourselves with anticipation when they eventually materialise a bit later than their advertised start time. Charismatic lead singer/guitarist Ellie Rowsell is as effortlessly cool and stylish as Kim Gordon, with a touch of The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan in her vocal tone. A radio mic is positioned alongside regular mic to allow for atmospheric variety in her delivery. Bassist Theo Ellis looks charged enough to explode up there, beckoning enthusiastically between chords and impatiently instructing the audience: “Come ON!”

“We haven’t played for about seven months so I’m sh-tting myself,” Rowsell confesses. No one would’ve guessed, though; if anything there seems to be extra frisson this evening, which is a pleasure to witness from an audience perspective. As soon as the syncopated, deliberate riffs that open Beautifully Unconventional ring out, the crowd gets psyched. Don’t Delete The Kisses delights with its fluttering synths and Rowsell’s swoon-worthy spoken-word delivery. Ellis is still buzzing: “Are you up for it, yeah?” If he dyed his hair black he’d be a shoo-in to play Sid Vicious in a Sex Pistols biopic.

Wolf Alice’s squally guitar freakouts are like no other. Before Silk, Rowsell encourages us to sing along and we do so enthusiastically come the chorus: “Just looking for a protector/God never reached out in time…”

Guitarist Joff Oddie leans forward and gazes out at the crowd, wrestling with his instrument or pointing the neck skyward as if it’s a rocket set to launch into outer space. Drummer Joel Amey absolutely unleashes at the tail end of Lisbon and his harmonies throughout Blush are king. During the heavy AF Yuk Foo, Rowsell relishes in screeching, “You bore me to death! Now I don’t give a sh-t!” We’re warned there will be no encore and totally rate this trend: encore fake-outs, begone! With a sound that veers from stark brilliance to sludgy complexity, Wolf Alice are no passing fancy.

Fumbling around his noggin post-show, a dude in the neighbouring booth wonders aloud: “Where did my earplugs go?” Once again, Wolf Alice blow our minds. Whether or not you’re familiar with their songs, Wolf Alice are sick to witness live. If you’re heading to Splendour In The Grass, set a reminder on your phone immediately and be sure to check them out.

Visions Of A Life by Wolf Alice is out now via Liberator/Dirty Hit.

Read our interview with Wolf Alice’s drummer Joel Amey.