One thing you can’t deny about Vukovi – they don’t mind leaving people waiting. The Scots’ last proper release was all the way back in 2012 with their Sweet Swears EP, a bit more angular and mathy than they would ultimately become at the end of their almost five-year-long gestation period. Hell, Bouncy Castle, the lead single for this self-titled debut album, was first released at the back end of 2015, and is only now being capitalised upon with the release of a proper album. And while it’s difficult to determine whether any album is truly worth almost half a decade of thumb-twiddling, Vukovi really have come out with a blinder here that deserves to be celebrated.
The reason for this is simply because Vukovi hit almost every necessary bullseye that a band like this needs to hit on their debut – they’re intelligent, vibrant, compelling and, most importantly, have a knack for writing cracking songs. It’s all tied together by vocalist Janine Shilstone, who resides much deeper in the Becca MacIntyre camp of rock frontwoman than the oft-assumed Hayley Williams one, mainly because of the insanely elasticated range and expressiveness of her delivery. Just listen to the opening track La Di Da for ample proof with her manic, unhinged yelps, appropriate for a song inspired by the abusive relationship of The Joker and Harley Quinn. Elsewhere, Prey revisits a similar theme but with more of a sombre, assertive tone, and there’s a bitterness to Animal and Boy George that keeps the momentum going all the way through. It’s this malleability that makes Vukovi such an addictive prospect, with the fact there’s actual meat in the lyrics buoyed by ridiculously catchy melodies being even better.
Truth be told though, this isn’t exactly a rare occurrence; innumerable acts combine hard-hitting content with a pop sensibility, and in truth, Vukovi don’t exactly stand out in that regard. It’s the way they tackle this approach that does though, and apart from the final couple of tracks that leave the album tailing off (the fact that penultimate track He Wants Me Not originally appeared on the Sweet Swears EP makes it feel like even more of an afterthought here), there’s a level of consistency that’s hard to deny. It’s mainly thanks to the overall technicality of the band that’s grounded in the Britrock tradition of big hooks, but with more instrumental colour to make a greater impression. Hamish Reilly’s guitar lines coalesce between surging and angular in all the right places on tracks like And He Lost His Mind and the irresistible sugar rush that is Bouncy Castle, and Jason Trotter’s steady bass work on Wander has the perfect amount of groove and propulsion that a great pop-rock song needs. What’s more, there’s blatant pop appeal throughout – the slight electronic fizzes around the edges of tracks like La Di Da and Weirdo, and even what feels like a disguised EDM drop on I’m Wired betray a fixation on a very contemporary sound, but one that’s never overbearing and leaves their solid rock core intact.
It’s enough to make you wish that more bands were like Vukovi. Even for a debut album, they’re already a couple of steps ahead of the pack in terms of what a new band should be – the influences are easy to pick up on but never glaringly obvious, the hooks are infectious without ever being asinine or underwritten, and there’s a truly distinct personality that’s almost fully established already. Bar a couple of duds at the very end, Vukovi have come flying out of the traps with this album, an interesting, exciting album of pop-rock done right.
For fans of: Marmozets, Biffy Clyro, The Xcerts
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Vukovi’ by Vukovi is released on 10th March on LAB Records.