Wolf Alice made it no secret that they’d had some difficulties composing their third album and follow-up to 2017’s success in ‘Visions Of A Life’. Their search for their new sound appears to have made them delve deep to create this new, intensely personal entry into their musical saga, ‘Blue Weekend’.
Far from the gloomy experience that its name might suggest, Wolf Alice instead seek to lift us out of any funk we may have settled in within a mere spin of this record. Vocalist Ellie Rowsell wanted to make music to listen to during troubled times, so unsurprisingly ‘Blue Weekend’ focuses on the turmoil of human interactions. It covers disintegrating relationships, from fractured friendships to losing the spark of romance, chronic underestimations, and new experiences far from home.
Bookended neatly by ‘The Beach’ and ‘The Beach II’, these eleven tracks should provide enough relief for a variety of circumstances. The first part of this duo is breathy and claustrophobic, as it recounts the scramble to ground oneself in a better memory, “Pressed in my palm was a stone from the beach, the perfect circle gave a moment of peace”. In part two we return to that same memory, with the corresponding relief of a “happy ever after” once the emotional storm has passed.
The idea of ‘making it’ is not a super universal experience, but musicians just love to write a song about their big break when they can. ‘Delicious Things’ covers a trip to LA, a dream for so many music makers, but this one takes a dark turn of realisation that “extravagance disguised as elegance is boring”. Far from the romanticisation of the City of Angels, the reality of fake promises, shady deals, and substance abuse can make for a nasty bump back down to earth.
‘The Last Man On Earth’ was, fittingly, the first song on the scene from this record, and remains a real stand out overall. Its biting retorts to every narcissist in the music industry who refuses to budge on archaic views is perfectly flanked by the mellow harmonies and Rowsell‘s sheer vocal indifference.
The sudden shift to grunge in ‘Smile’ can be a little bit jarring at first, but it’s better understood once the frustrations of the endless barrage of other peoples’ ill-informed or preconceived perceptions on your character. It’s about as moody and gritty as Wolf Alice get, yet still these vocals rarely get above a whisper. That is until the deliberate incongruity of ‘Play The Greatest Hits’, which sounds like if The Runaways were fronted by the Powerpuff Girls.
There is, for once, a positive spin on break-ups with ‘No Hard Feelings’, because after the frustrations and let downs that ‘Blue Weekend’ vents out, it’s nice to close out on a note of mutual respect and closure.