London’s finest alternative quartet are back, and better than ever before, with their ambitious third studio album, ‘Blue Weekend’
Photo credits: Jordan Hemingway
With the long-anticipated arrival of their third studio album, Blue Weekend, released 4th June 2021, under Dirty Hit Records, it’s safe to say that Wolf Alice have even outdone themselves. And a feat after 2017’s ‘Visions of a Life’, you wouldn’t think it would be physically possible.
But it is. So much so, that upon my first run through of the euphoric, yet at the same time mellow, forty-minute collection, my recurring thought was “when I grow up, I hope I’m half as cool as Ellie Rowsell.” I mean, let’s face it, she’s one of the best fronting a band, right now, and said band is one of the most versatile and exciting acts of modern-day music culture. Nobody is doing it like Wolf Alice. Nobody.
Blue Weekend confirms just that, boasting tracks so musically and generically different, and with such a ranging genre, where every song has a different vibe and a different sound, yet fits so tightly, offering up an album still incredibly cohesive. In theory it shouldn’t work, but somehow, it does.
A perfect instance being, ‘Smile’, a track that can only be described as Visions of a Life’s angry and powerful lead single, ‘Yuk Foo’s somehow more sophisticated, and even more self-aware, older sister, with its raucous, punchy, catchy guitar riffs and heavy bassline lying the foundation beneath Rowsell’s adopted grunge vocal tone. The verses are confessional, yet resentful, unexpectedly bursting into the Radio 1 ready, pop chorus that aches to be chanted during a festival headline slot, at that epiphanic moment when you’re feeling tired, yet still incredibly exhilarated, and find yourself perched upon the shoulders of some random, tipsy guy, of whom you’ve never before met. In complete contrast, yet staying true to the style that makes Wolf Alice so incredibly good, Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love) follows, offering a slower, softer and more reminiscent moment, with its purely acoustic backing track, swirling melodies, and the layered vocals on the chorus that creates the illusion that the audio is 3D, completely immersing you in the track. It seems like it shouldn’t work, and let’s face it, if any other band tried to do it, it probably wouldn’t be executed half as well, but it does, and that’s what makes Blue Weekend feel so special.
‘Feeling Myself’ is mellow and almost sounds desperate, but for the most part, it’s sexy, confident and arguably daring, before it transitions into the album’s lead, ‘The Last Man On Earth.’ The latter’s opening mostly whirls around Rowsell’s smooth, showstopping and strong vocals, which could be argued as being an instrument on its own, throughout Blue Weekend’s run time, making the song feel gentle and elegant, before erupting into a Beatle-esque guitar riff, euphoric chanting in the background, and Rowsell’s now soaring voice.
Once again, in complete juxtaposition, ‘Play The Greatest Hits’ revolves around a somewhat threatening sounding bassline, courtesy of Theo Ellis, before Joff Oddie chimes in with a crunching guitar riff so heavy, that it can only be described as a wall of noise. But, of course, in the best way possible – you can only begin to imagine the scenes of fans moshing left, right and centre, as soon as the track can be played on tour.
‘No Hard Feelings’, the penultimate single premiered before the album’s full-length release, is another purely acoustic track, waltzing around the muffled pluck of an acoustic guitar. It’s soothing, comforting, emotional and resonant, especially within the line “Crying in the bathtub to ‘Love Is A Losing Game’”, because in a year as tough as 2020, I’m sure we all found ourselves in that position at one point or another. Just me then? Maybe the track presents a different experience for everyone upon listening, but you have to admit, it hits us all in just the same way.
‘The Beach II’ is the finale that an album as beautiful as Blue Weekend wholly deserves. The number offers up yet another moment of reflection, but this one appears to be for the final time, as Rowsell sets our closing scene through her evocative narration of herself drinking “liquid rose”, surrounded by her friends, but as she is zoning out and looking on, out into the sea. She sings softly, “The tide comes in as it must go out, consistent like the laughter, of the girls on the beach, my girls on the beach”, and as she does so, is accompanied by the gentle swirl of the electric guitar, and the hum of the synths; the sounds so resonant, and the lyricism so vivid and evocating that you feel as though you are there too, one of the girls on the beach, Ellie’s girls on the beach.
That’s the best thing about Wolf Alice. They’re not fighting to be the music industry’s toxically proclaimed “next big thing”, nor are they trying to be “stanned” by teenage girls posting their newfound bops on their TikTok accounts. They’re not all that “Indie pop”, trendy, Spotify curated, thousands of followers playlist friendly. What Wolf Alice are is the moment. They’re one of the most important British bands of right now, stealthised with their emotionally resonant tracks that catch you off guard and transport you elsewhere for a little while, upon hearing just the opening bars, but also hype you up on their more powerful numbers, begging to be spun full blast, brimming with self-confidence. Nobody is doing it like Wolf Alice are.
As I near Blue Weekend’s end, I’m left with my initial thoughts again. Whilst I yearn to be as cool as Ellie Rowsell one day, I can’t help but think about how excited I am for when the time rolls around when future generations of music lovers to go sifting through their parents’ record collection, and they stumble across Blue Weekend, some twenty years from now, then go off to their friends, proclaiming how when they grow up they, like me, long to be as cool as Ellie Rowsell, and her fellow band mates. After all, Blue Weekend is going to be around for a long, long time.