Brighton-brewed rockers The Wytches descended upon the masses in 2014 with their debut album ‘Annabel Dream Reader’. The three-piece had conjured up a sinister concoction, blending Dick Dale-esque surf riffs with mightily dark lyricism, leaving little optimism to be scrounged.
In June of this year, they released a seven-track EP titled ‘Home Recordings’, primarily to whet fans’ appetites and generate buzz for the inevitable follow-up to their debut. Their sophomore record, ‘All Your Happy Life’ is lighter, it channels only a fraction of the debut’s dark tonality and showcases the band’s awareness and commendable addressing of their debut’s shortcomings.
The Wytches’ debut felt bloated due to its 49-minute runtime, coupled with an overall lack of stylistic variation. ‘All Your Happy Life’ is a whopping thirteen minutes slimmer and with the band’s fresh approach to their sound, it makes for a far more coherent, concise and ultimately successful track-listing.
Lead single and opener ‘C Side’ however, is sonically much like the debut, with its surf rock sensibilities and eerily frantic outro. It’s still one of the most musically-pleasing cuts, yet the majority of tracks that follow indicate an alternate and more interesting path the band are pursuing.
Most notably, vocalist-guitarist Kristian Bell seems to have evolved his communicative style. His desperate, pained shrieks that plagued the debut are still here in glimmers, yet throughout this record he sounds unsettled, agitated; slowly grating on the listener rather than the indirect, uncontrollable blurts.
Tracks such as ‘A Dead Night Again’ demonstrate Bell’s mellower approach, accompanied by Daniel Rumsey’s twangy bassline. Likewise, ‘Dumb-Fill’ sees Bell singing in a semi-spoken tone. He is seemingly taking a step back to make way for extended instrumental sections that more often than not bring cuts to a close.
As mentioned above, the band take a different sonic approach resulting in a subtraction of many of their surf influences. ‘A Feeling We Get’ and its chirpy acoustic chord progression chugs along like an Oasis ballad whilst ‘Ghost House’ gallops forth with its sludgy palm-muted riff and lo-fi drums.
Penultimate track ‘Dumb-Fill’ is a sure-fire highlight, boasting a Josh Homme-esque lead guitar hook partnered with Rumsey’s plodding bassline. Downtempo ballad ‘Home’ closes the record; spaced-out guitar licks underlay Bell’s soft vocals as he questions “where’s everyone gone?”.
The band have managed to overcome the difficult second record syndrome by addressing the issues their debut had, through a more concise track-list and fresh approach to their sound. The lyricism and themes never plunge to the depths of their debut and the occasional glimpses of optimism are well-accompanied by the all-round brighter instrumentation.
‘All Your Happy Life’ is therefore a well-thought out and executed follow-up to its flawed predecessor.
Essential tracks: C Side // A Feeling We Get // Dumb-Fill