Sunday, June 13

Wolf Alice: Blue Weekend Review – Massive Ambitions Exceptionally Fulfilled | Alice Wolf


There’s a very eye-catching line in the middle of the fourth track on Wolf Alice’s third album, a spiky burst of righteous anger called Smile: “I am what I am and I’m good at it,” Ellie Rowsell yells, “and you don’t eat. I, well, that’s not fucking relevant. “

This is a boastful thing, particularly of someone whose public image, as Smile points out, is that of a sensitive artist, a cautious interviewee. On the other hand, maybe Wolf Alice has the right to show off. Two Top 5 albums, a Mercury Award and a career Grammy nomination, have come a long way in a climate where what was once called “indie” music is supposed to struggle.

Wolf Alice Album Cover: Blue Weekend
Wolf Alice Album Cover: Blue Weekend

At first glance, they seem like a very 2020s type of band, built for a pop world where relatability and mild aspiration are more important than glamor and dream-selling. For all the attention of Vogue – “This is how a Brit does Glastonbury style“- Rowsell seems remarkably more like” Big Sister’s famous cool sidekick “than” a rock star blessed with otherworldly charisma. ” His lyrics tend to deal with the everyday frustrations of twentysomething life; whether of character or not, it is a mild shock to hear her sing about accepting whatever drugs she is offered. in Los Angeles on Blue Weekend’s Delicious Things.

Nor are they a band that has swallowed the traditional rock mythology that suggests a more glamorous, strange, transgressive and exciting life than yours. The 2017 tour documentary On the Road made being at Wolf Alice seem like work, a drab, draining round of slightly disappointing experiences that director Michael Winterbottom likened to “a horrible way to camp.” Likewise, his most obvious musical benchmarks, shoegazing and grunge, an Elastica touch on his more punk moments, date largely to the early ’90s. His influences are skillfully applied, but audible enough. as if to attract an audience that remembers these things for the first time. There is something for 16-year-olds and BBC Radio 6 Music listeners who remember when the O2 Forum was called Town and Country Club.

It’s a recipe for a certain level of success, but the blue weekend is obviously a lunge for something bigger. The producer’s chair is filled by Markus Dravs, whose CV (Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Florence + the Machine) suggests he’s the kind of person you call on the phone if you find your ambitions extend a bit beyond your status. current. It’s a move compounded by circumstances: Trapped in a residential recording studio by the Covid pandemic, the band chose to spend their time polishing an album they previously thought was practically finished.

Wolf Alice: The Last Man on Earth – video

The movement for something bigger can be the moment when artists falter, where a glaring discrepancy between ambition and ability is revealed, or the desire to perform on a bigger stage floods the essence of what got people to them. please in the first place. But, it turns out, boldness suits Wolf Alice better than you’d expect. When listening to Blue Weekend, you are struck by the attractive feeling that everything falls into place. The sound is more polished and wide-screen: the sound and echo of the effects-laden guitars in Feeling Myself evoke an alternate universe in which Slowdive had played stadiums; the punk explosion of Play the Greatest Hits resounds; The Last Man on Earth goes from piano ballad to epic, but the songs are strong enough to support it, better written than anything else on Wolf Alice’s previous albums. Never hollow, the choruses soar, as in Delicious Things and How Can I Make It OK? the words are sharp and occasionally witty: “He’s had so many lovers / But he’s not pleasing anyone,” Rowsell sings in the narcotic Feeling Myself.

Even the seemingly light acoustic Safe from Heartbreak (If You Never Fall in Love) has a hint of Abba in its melody and harmonized vocals. Despite the litany of late-1920s concerns in the lyrics: friendships that falter as priorities change (The Beach); the continuing allure of hedonism fighting the sneaky suspicion that it is not providing the escape it once offered (Delicious Things); the desire to maintain romantic relationships despite their obvious failings (“I’m taking you back, I know it sounds surprising,” shrugs Lipstick on glass) – Rowsell’s voice feels safe, confidently shifting from the whispered intimacy to the full and exciting arena. , howls of anger, at the coldness of the cut crystal.

Without wishing to accumulate unreasonable expectations, it has the distinctive flavor of an album that could be huge. There is something undeniable about it, the seductive sound of a band doing what they do exceptionally well, so that even the most devoted detractor might be forced to understand their success. The kind of arrogance heard in Smile’s lyrics, and indeed during Blue Weekend, seems more understandable than ever.

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