Bend your own rules
It’s been a long wait for Wolf Alice to put out a follow-up to their 2017 album Visions Of A Life (see Wavegirl review previously). That album demonstrated that the rock outfit weren’t merely a one album wonder, instead expanding on My Love Is Cool’s solid foundations to experiment with a broader range of sound (while also keeping a consistency in their approach).
In fact, Visions Of A Life raised the bar by a considerable height, particularly on the back of phenomenal compositions such as the wistful ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’. On that basis, the band’s tricky third album already has its work cut out. Consisting of Ellie Rowsell (guitar, vocals) Joff Oddie (guitar), Theo Ellis (bass) and Joel Amey (drums), Wolf Alice have, nevertheless, persevered with a release that surprises, delights and embarks on a path you might not necessarily expect.
Blue Weekend is certainly an unusual album, with a more mature approach that proves to be more of a puzzle box than simply a series of predictable rock standards. It takes several spins to really show off its charm, but it’s time well spent.
Opener ‘The Beach’ is a fairly simple affair that acts as an overture of sorts. “Are we still friends if all I feel is afraid?” offers Rowsell, hinting at uncertainty.
Meanwhile, ‘Delicious Things’ is easily one of the album’s finest moments – a shimmering slice of moody guitars backing a narrative-led vocal by Rowsell. The song wrestles with an American setting beset by anxiety and joy, as well as exploring perhaps the journey that the band have taken in recent years (“A girl like me/Would you believe I’m in Los Angeles?”)
‘Lipstick On The Glass’ opens with a breathy, ethereal vocal from Rowsell on a bass-heavy outing care of Theo Ellis. It’s a sweeping thing of joy that throws in some warm, engaging percussion to fall back on.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Wolf Alice album without a more raw approach on some tracks, which is led here by the grunge vibes of ‘Smile’. Here, Rowsell definitely has an axe to grind with lines like “Don’t call me mad there’s a difference I am angry” setting the scene. Equally, ‘Play The Greatest Hits’ employs dirty guitars on a sheer Pixies-esque blowout of a track.
One of the album’s true surprises is the simple beauty of ‘Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall In Love)’. The stripped-down approach centered mostly around an acoustic guitar and Rowsell’s harmonic vocals (along with some effective backing vocals from Joff Oddie) gives this composition a folk-tinged charm. Changing gear again, the organ-led melodies of ‘Feeling Myself’ open up to a strange, immersive fever dream of a composition.
Previously, ‘The Last Man On Earth’ had heralded the album and certainly seems a nod back to the bittersweet ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’. The gentle piano melodies set the tone for an evocative number that opens up into a bigger, more widescreen affair with some nice choral touches and suitable string foundations.
‘The Beach II’, which closes the album, is a shimmering wonder which agains provides one of Blue Weekend’s best moments. The lush delivery of lines such as “And the tide comes in/As it must go out” have a wonderfully syrupy quality to them, augmented by some impressive wash-laden guitar work.
Blue Weekend showcases a band that are continually evolving, here offering a more mature, wisened selection of songs, while still maintaining an unescapable Wolf Alice quality.
Blue Weekend is out now.