Monday, June 7, 2021

Review: Blue Weekend • Wolf Alice

 


Even before their third record could memorialize the fact, British quartet Wolf Alice always has made music for every blue weekend. As a powerful mainstay in rock music, the band merges grunge music and dreary shoegaze into records that are equally drenched in tears and seizing with anger. Some may think it’s a combination that shouldn’t work well: After all, the band whiplashes listeners with emotionally unlevel albums, throwing them between very immediate, electrified smashers and drifting ballads. The folks at the Mercury Prize and most major music festivals, however, would disagree with that assessment – and with the release of the band’s newest record, Blue Weekend, so would I.

Blue Weekend busts open the established definition of Wolf Alice and guides it toward a far more nuanced place than either of their previous records. The band reframes both their guitar-driven rock music and their piano ballads into high-definition widescreen, overlaying it with flair and shine: Pushed as the album’s lead single, “The Last Man On Earth” is among the most unexpected yet affecting products here as it grows into an enormous power ballad. Similar remarks could be made for “How Can I Make It OK?,” which first buzzes with a neon synth then swells into the album’s crowning jewel. From snarled rock bangers like “Smile” to the full-bodied ambiance found in “Feeling Myself” or “Delicious Things,” the band surprises at every sonic shift as they lean into a sound that is unmistakably their own yet vaguely reminiscent of decades past.

While sessions for Blue Weekend were already underway prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s isolation was spent in part with producer Markus Dravs, who had a hand in both Coldplay and Florence + The Machine’s best albums. The resulting material presents a Wolf Alice with no option but to reflect on their half-completed work – and through that process, their career-best material was extracted. This record is free of any aimless meandering or harsh pivots, and instead, the songs coalesce into an engaging portrait of a band attempting to deduce what they want from their career, relationships, and life at large. Even to someone who hadn’t recognized their allure with previous records, Blue Weekend cements Wolf Alice’s well-deserved top billing in today’s alternative rock music landscape.

Blue Weekend is available now under RCA Records.

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Maira Gall