2017 saw the rise of Pale Waves, following their Dirty Hit signing and an opening slot for The 1975’s sold-out Madison Square Garden show. With this rise came slews of fans who not only share a love for Pale Waves’ pop-punk sound, but the sense of belonging evoked through their music.
Across its 13 tracks, ‘Unwanted’ is a love letter to the misfits. Since their 2018 debut record, ‘My Mind Makes Noises’, the band have proffered a place where fans feel seen and heard, especially those in the LGBTQI community, either through Heather Baron-Gracie’s increasingly honest lyricism detailing her relationships with women, or drummer Ciára Doran’s regular social media updates regarding their transition.
Packed with forty minutes of ferocious energy stylistically akin to pop-punk greats like Avril Lavigne, Paramore and Sum-41 – yet still strikingly original in its own right – ‘Unwanted’ is a body of work that will certainly live up to fan expectations. Considering producer Zakk Cervini (Blink-182, Machine Gun Kelly, Yungblud) was onboard to produce, the album was bound to be a rampant collection of alternative tunes.
Opening track ‘Lies’ arrives with an instant burst of angsty punk, setting the perfect scene for the rest of the record. “You called it love but it never had that feeling, ripped out my heart and left it bleeding”, Baron-Gracie ardently sings in the opening bar. The theme of betrayal in a relationship is spread across the record, with the following tune and title track ‘Unwanted’ delving deep into a complex relationship and self-reflection in the face of someone else.
While the album feels almost directly motivated by messy relationships and defiance – there are moments of raw compassion and tenderness. Their latest single ‘The Hard Way’, is an example of this. Inspired by a girl who rode the same bus as Baron-Gracie, who took her own life, the song is a reminder to stand up for those targeted by bullies, detailing Baron-Gracie’s regret for not protecting the song’s protagonist.
We hear the lighter side to the album again with tracks such as ‘Without You’ which begins with a simple piano chime met with acoustic guitar and gentle percussion. Baron-Gracie’s simmering vocals are hair-raising as she once again expresses honesty in her songwriting.
The latter half of ‘Unwanted’ relocates the band’s post-punk anguish. Track nine ‘You’re So Vain’, and previously released single ‘Reasons to Live’, meet the definitions of head-bangers. Close your eyes whilst listening to these tunes and it’s easy to visualize the four corners of a dive bar engulfed with a plethora of angsty teens donning every conceivable hair colour.
The closing track ‘So Sick (Of Missing You)’ feels like the perfect conclusion. Although wistful in its composition as well as its lyricism, it’s a track that speaks to the lovesick, another example of Pale Waves’ gift for crafting music that resonates. Unapologetically angsty and beautifully chaotic, Pale Waves have created a safe space for fans with ‘Unwanted’. A place of pride.
Words: Isabella Miller