“Swaying in the kitchen, to all the greatest hits!” chants frontwoman Ellie Rowsell in the middle of ‘Blue Weekend’, the new album from the dynamic four-piece Wolf Alice.
She’s probably not singing about the band’s own hits but, if she is, I wouldn’t blame her. We’ve not had new music from the London-hailed group since 2017, unlike the short wait between their first and second album. This time, though, not rushing the new release has undoubtably paid off.
Pictured outside a green glowing bus stop on the album’s cover, Wolf Alice have captured a kind of alternative world, taking us all on a dark and hazy holiday trip away. The whole record riffs off this contrast, shifting from mystic melodies coupled with Rowsell’s angelic vocals, before crashing back down to earth with heavy symbols and lyrics filled with vengeance – very Wolf Alice.
Second on the album, and the longest track, ‘Delicious Things’ is perfectly placed. Coming in any later its five-minute length might have dragged a little, but here it nicely sets up the sound of Blue Weekend, building and retreating again and again like the tide of a beach. Aptly, two track parts titled ‘The Beach’ open and close the album. One begins the record swimming in dark contemplation with a swelling plea of “let me off, let me in”, while the closing track ‘The Beach II’ reaches a warmer, more serene conclusion: “girls on the beach, happy ever after.”
Though Wolf Alice are often dubbed with the title of ‘indie’, the record wades through innumerable genres. The band does shifts in soundscape better than anyone: label them anything you want, but the one label they refuse is ‘boring’. Only Wolf Alice could go from the weighty, derisive ‘Smile’ (this album’s ‘Yuk Foo’) to the soft, bitter-sweet ‘Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)’. The latter track is one of their dreamiest yet, recalling the same scared-of-love sentiment of 2017 summer hit ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’.
‘Feeling Myself’, in contrast, sounds like the start of a TV drama theme tune – one that melts into a smooth, sultry melody before it bursts into high cinematic instrumentals, giving it a quality that wouldn’t be out of place in a James Bond film. It’s explicitly seductive: Rowsell’s alluring vocals pull you in and the melody’s addictive rise and fall gives the track that typical Wolf Alice edginess. It’s one of their best.
More than anything, the record is about selfhood, in finding yourself outside of home: “Can I belong here, (the vibes are kind of strong here), ask me if I’m from here and I won’t say no” sings Rowsell on ‘Delicious Things’. In the shimmering pre-released single ‘The Last Man On Earth’, filled with choral backing and Rowsell’s breathy vocals, the band seem keen to explore a deeper part of the human condition. Maybe that’s why the album isn’t moulded to any one tone or mood. While ‘The Last Man On Earth’ explores “the arrogance of man”, Rowsell has explained, the penultimate ‘No Hard Feelings’ is full of soft forgiveness.
The mercury prize winning Visions Of A Life was filled with undoubtably rich song writing, and their debut record My Love Is Cool holds a unique, nostalgic charm, but Blue Weekend is Wolf Alice’s strongest project yet. It’s their boldest in terms of pushing genres and daring lyricism, and its sustained brilliance makes its highlights glow all the more assuredly.
Blue Weekend is out now and the accompanying short film premieres at Picturehouse Central in Soho, London on Thursday 10 June, with the band performing a special acoustic set before each screening. You can also catch Wolf Alice on tour in 2022 at the dates below:
Header image: Wolf Alice. Credit: Jordan Hemingway.