It does not seem that long ago Peterborough-formed, Brighton-based The Wytches were being tipped as the ‘next bright things’ in the music scenes – a band causing music magazines and websites to vacillate and speculate with wild fever. The boys seem like your classic rock/alternative formation: A solid three-piece of guitar, bass, drum and vocals; songs that have melody and tune but definitely play on the hard-weird on the spectrum. The band’s 2014 debut, Annabel Dream Reader, found Kristian Bell, Gianni Honey and Dan Rumsey playing around with ghoulishness, mysticism and strange romance – an album that impressed some critics while others found it lacked variety and necessary personality.
Mixed and recorded by Luke Oldfield – whose work I am a big fan of – at Hackney’s Toe Rag Studios (Luke recorded half of the album): The lo-fi, ‘60s technology aided their carnivorous and primal sounds; unfettered by modern pertinence and baubles. The obsession with spook-inspired lyrics and psychotropic compositions might have been perfectly appropriate for a Brighton band: It did seem a little samey at a time many others acts were doing the same things. The band, before the album was made, signed to Partisan Records in the U.S. and instantly ensured they had an audience and market in America.
With former Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones helping with production (on the band’s debut); there was a definite sound of debut-album Coral and their vibe. The ensuing two years has seen The Wytches stretch their sound and ensure they do not repeat their debut. All Your Happy Life draws on a lifetime of experiences, all distilled into a couple of years (since the debut). The Wytches boys go for scathing, baroque and dark on All Your Happy Life and ensure there is plenty to draw in new fans.
Current single C-Side begins with clattering and howling strings: Twisted, Queens of the Stone Age-esque with a little Iggy Pop in there. Bell’s drawling, exhausted vocals suggest a man that has been played and fooled before – someone keen to separate themselves from a poisonous heroine. The band come together and create a typically twilight sound full of drama, snarl, and punch. A Feeling We Get is one of the most intriguing songs to date and recalls memories of Oasis in their earliest days. With the song, as with a lot of the album, the composition and vocal are too distant to fully coerce and cooperate. Bell’s voice is scratched and under-produced while the composition is clean, melodic and forward-moving – taking your brain in two different directions. Throned fairs a little better and is a genuine stab at warped-out, heads-spinning psychedelia. The composition swells and bellows: A head-trip that could easily have sat on Revolver – embers of The Beatles’ psychedelic days come to mind. In terms of composition, the song finds the boys leaping forward and sharpening their teeth – an easy highlight that is going to sound interesting in the live setting.
Throwing everything into mix: Ghost House summons plenty of images and possibilities but is too long and cumbersome to truly resonate. The band shift through the gears and are intense throughout – a sharper edit and shorter introduction might have been beneficial. Bell’s vocals are at their most blood-curdling and whilst it adds spike to the foreground, it is hard to decipher the lyrics and is a little cloying towards the end. It is a track that might be experimented with on the road – a faster delivery and heavier version would hit the crowds harder and give Ghost House the kick and energy it requires. Bone-Weary, once more, crosses The Beatles and Oasis without really adding or differentiating itself from Throned. Dumb-Fill has shades of The Coral yet finds The Wytches synchronising vocals and composition: A song whose conversational narrative is genuinely dark, memorable and repeatable – more like this would make the album more unique and standout. Home completes the album and is a contemplative and emotional offering from The Wytches. “You’re out of this world” the hero proclaims: One senses a comment directed at a girl; someone he wants to take home perhaps. Bell’s voice is at its cleanest and purest and benefits from a romantic and restrained backing – another one of the album’s highpoints.
Tolstoy, dysfunctional tour bus relations and personal insights go into a sophomore album that does its best to step from the debut’s shadow and heighten the band’s sound. Recorded by Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds/Grinderman) in Lincolnshire’s Chapel Studios and Toe Rag: It is a more confident and varied album than Annabel Dream Reader and has plenty to recommend. Tracks like Dumb-Fill and Throned will linger in the mind and the boys sound genuinely evolved. One of the problems remaining in the sense of individuality – there are still too many shades of others. Oasis, The Beatles, and The Coral show up too often and the guys, in an attempt to avoid the influences of their debut, have repeated that slight here – unable to truly shake off that sense of familiarity. The band start a headline tour in November – including a night at London’s Electric Ballroom – and will play across the U.K. this summer/autumn. All Your Happy Life has its problems and holdbacks but there is enough energy, explosion and quality to please the fans and ensure The Wytches have a busy touring schedule ahead.