by Tom Roden
Vukovi is a band that has gone from strength to strength in recent years. After a few years building a presence in the local Scottish circuit, things really kicked off for the band little over a year ago with the release of powerhouse single ‘Animal’. Yet such a sharp rise and strong groundwork traditionally poses something of a mountainous challenge to artists. As a result, anything less than a perfect debut from Vukovi would fail to deliver on the hype.
Fortunately, Vukovi’s self-titled debut album soars beyond perfection. The album is a shining example of not only how to exceed tremendous hype, but also how to craft captivating music that is distinct and unique. While the alt-rock/metallite genre is a very saturated one, Vukovi has something that sets it apart: a fun feeling with an air of experimentalism.
From the fierce guitar riffs of opening track ‘La Di Da’ to the gargantuan singalong wall of sound that is ‘Prey’, there is an upbeat and bouncy essence to every track on the album in some way. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that all too often is weighed down with seriousness and overt meaning. Vukovi finds a balance between meaning and meaninglessness, juxtaposing potentially weighty lyrical subjects with instrumentation that channels the lightness of pop into the abrasiveness of alt-rock.
Arguably the best example of this is ‘Weirdo’, a song tackling the feeling of being an outsider and/or being mocked by others. It’s a track with a strong meaning and a positive message of defiant self-acceptance, but the lyrics themselves ring with tongue-in-cheek charm. This isn’t too surprising, as it’s likely the track serves as a statement of personal intent for frontwoman Janine Shilstone, but it is indicative of Vukovi’s general musical approach. Similarly, ‘Boy George’ offers up a scathing, smart-arse lyrical attack to the backdrop of intense and muscular drums and guitars. It is this marriage of uneasy musical bedfellows that forms the cornerstone of Vukovi’s sound.
Yet the band can successfully deviate from this. As the album winds down, they treat listeners to two tracks in a different vein – ‘He Wants Me Not’ and ‘Colour Me In’. While ‘He Wants Me Not’ strikes a strong balance between rousingly energetic instrumentation and emotionally-charged lyricism, it marks a moment of emotional collapse for the band. The track fades out on an exhausted note, with a single rung out guitar strum and Shilstone’s vulnerable vocal. ‘Colour Me In’ continues this to a close, with a tender emotional alt-ballad that provides one of the album’s most beautiful moments.
All of this serves to prove that Vukovi are, undoubtedly, one of the alt-rock scene’s newest success stories. The band takes all of the things that have made the alternative scene great over the past decade – namely the pop elements, abrasive energy and lyrical depth – and blends them into something fun, exciting and fresh. The debut album is a powerhouse of nonstop pleasure and distinct magnificence, from an outfit destined for greatness.