There’s this age-old music industry adage about building by architecture – the way an artist reacts to the context their music is heard in. Wolf Alice are practically the dictionary definition of this, moving from a duo to a quartet, from the Old Blue Last to actual arenas, all while retaining some essential essence of what makes them such a deeply individual proposition. But what happens when that cord of communication is cut? ‘Blue Weekend’ – the follow up to Mercury winner ‘Visions Of A Life’ – is lyrically more personal, more open, and more introverted, while presenting some of their wildest, yet also most balanced music to date.
Opener ‘The Beach’ is a nuanced, textured journey into sound, one that allows both listener and band to find their feet. ‘Delicious Things’ finds Wolf Alice filling their lungs with air, while the bass-led brutality that dominates ‘Smile’ is offset by Eillie Rowsell’s heavenly vocal.
Relationships dominate the album, a curious reversal of their earlier refusal to pen love songs. ‘Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)’ throws up a protective veil, while the plaintive ‘How Can I Make It OK’ places Ellie in a position of self-doubt, the feeling of helplessness that comes from grappling with your role in the demise of a relationship.
Yet it’s far from a break up album. The production from Markus Dravs allows Wolf Alice to re-assert themselves are a four-piece unit, a studio partnership that fosters some of their most direct, up-front rock moments. ‘Play The Greatest Hits’ bleeds far into the red, an unrelenting screamo document that scorches both the microphone and Ellie’s larynx.
Single – and instant fan anthem – ‘The Last Man On Earth’ is a real high point, its context within the emotional song cycle giving the lyrics added nuance and meaning. Closing out with the frenzied minimalism of ‘No Hard Feelings’ and the beatific finale ‘The Beach II’ there’s a sense of learning, and self-realisation – it’s a sense of life’s continuation, whether you want it to or not.
A record of sonic and lyrical renewal, ‘Blue Weekend’ takes the lessons learned across Wolf Alice’s nigh-on perfect one-two punch – ‘My Love Is Cool’ and ‘Visions Of A Life’ – while adding subtle differences. Definitely not a reinvention, it plays to the band’s strengths while amplifying new qualities, a record as bruising as it is subtle. Working to their own passions and desires, ‘Blue Weekend’ places Wolf Alice beyond the reach of their peers.
Words: Robin Murray
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