Jun 03, 2021
By Andy Von Pip
After winning the Mercury Prize in 2018 in their native UK for their second album, Visions of a Life, there was never any danger of Wolf Alice falling victim to the so-called “Mercury’s curse,” wherein artists picking up the award suddenly found they couldn’t live up to the hype. Wolf Alice have always been far too good to disappear off anybody’s radar. Before their Mercury win, they’d already released a clutch of superb singles and EPs that played like a greatest hits compilation and a critically acclaimed debut album in the shape of My Love Is Cool. They had the songs, had drawn a loyal and enthusiastic fanbase, and remained an incredible live unit. Indeed it’s in no way a stretch or hyperbolic to say Wolf Alice are one of the finest bands to emerge from the UK in the last decade. So the question is how do you follow up a Mercury Prize-winning album? Simple, you take a break, recharge your creative batteries, and come back with your finest work to date.
In a recent interview with Under the Radar, Wolf Alice frontwoman Ellie Rowsell explained that the band were feeling burned out at the end of 2019. “We got to the point when we were a bit sick of everything we were doing, we needed to go away and remember who we were as individuals,” she explained. On album three, Blue Weekend, Rowsell and her bandmates—guitarist Joff Oddie, bassist Theo Ellis, and drummer Joel Amey—are completely reinvigorated and their melodies, lyrics, and hooks sound sharper and more laser-focused than ever. This is a widescreen 4k version of Wolf Alice, as Blue Weekend slowly reveals itself to be a master class in musicianship, songwriting, and soaring emotion whilst covering a variety of musical bases. You’ll find emotive power ballads such as “The Last Man on Earth” (which is about “the arrogance of human beings”) and spiky grunge in the form of “Smile” (which has Rowsell asserting “I am what I am and I’m good at it/And you don’t like me well that isn’t fucking relevant”). The band also have great fun with the unhinged feral punk of “Play the Greatest Hits,” show their sensual side with the seductive shoegazey “Feeling Myself,” and return to their acoustic roots on tracks such as the tender “No Hard Feelings.”
Whereas in the past Rowsell has hidden her feelings behind metaphors and ambiguity, Blue Weekend sees her penning some of her most direct and personal lyrics to date. And perhaps this has given her a sense of release because vocally throughout the album she soars and produces a stunning performance ranging from dreamy half-spoken internal monologues to towering celestial beauty. On the gorgeous “Delicious Things” she muses on the seductive promise of fame, with tales of unsuitable suitors and blaggers in Hollywood where she ends up bored with the thin veneer of glamour and phoning her mother. “How Can I Make It OK?” is bittersweet dream-pop perfection, as Rowsell tries to salvage a relationship that is going awry, giving herself “a moment to change it all” while she laments “how can I make it OK? I just want you to be happy.” It’s a moment of shimmering beauty on an album that demonstrates how far Wolf Alice has come, and indeed how much more they have to give.
Blue Weekend is a stunning return and one that should cement Wolf Alice’s reputation still further. As ever it’s an eclectic yet cohesive collection of songs that demonstrates maturity, and an unerring ability to craft beautiful, heartfelt genre-defying music full of warmth, depth, and emotional intelligence. (www.wolfalice.co.uk)
Author rating: 9/10
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