REVIEW: Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

I’ve written before about how I’ve never felt like a millennial despite being born in the range of years the generation is supposed to span. Blue Weekend is another item to add to the growing body of evidence in support of this feeling. It has too much real-world angst to be a Gen-Z album (which is probably an oxymoron, but that’s a whole other article), yet it definitely feels too “young” for someone like me. This got me asking my fellow PBs, “what age is a Wolf Alice fan?” To quote Lisa, it’s “definitely anthemic, but in a festival-for-people-way-younger-than-me way”. I pressed play in search of answers.

From the get go on Blue Weekend, Wolf Alice are full of intent. “You didn’t take us seriously, and then we won the Mercury prize. So have this”, you might imagine them saying. Their third album is easily their most consistent and cohesive body of work yet. And for about three quarters of the album they achieve their intended aims.

The band are also out to prove that consistent and cohesive doesn’t mean bland and lacking contrast. There are ballad-like love songs like the catchy ‘Lipstick on the Glass’ and ‘Safe from Heartbreak (if I never fall in love)’, sitting comfortably alongside heavy rock guitar riffs in songs like ‘Smile’. Heartfelt and anguished lyrics give an extra edge to often jolly sounding melodies and guitar picking. Indeed after a first listen, all this contrast left me feeling several different emotions about the album. Some of Blue Weekend is meh, some is great, some is annoying and some is confusing.

Let’s begin with the good stuff. My favourite song on the album is ‘How Can I Make It Ok’. Killer harmonies complement Ellie Rowsell’s vocals at their most redoubtable and intoxicating. ‘Lipstick on the Glass’ is another strong contender. ‘Feeling Myself’ and ‘Delicious Things’ are similarly successful in their quest for (to coin my own phrase, Lisa) not-quite-headlining-the-second-biggest-stage-at-the-festival euphoria.

Sadly the highs don’t last long enough and are interrupted by some horrors. ‘The Last Man on Earth’ starts reasonably enough, but ends up going all a bit too Paul McCartney three minutes in. ‘The Greatest Hits’ is ridiculous and hilarious but not in a good way. It’s an unwelcome change from the brilliance of ‘How Can I Make It Ok’ immediately before.

I’ve spent a lot of time with this album over the last few weeks and with every listen had to fight my instinctive indifference towards Wolf Alice. To Blue Weekend’s credit, I began to warm to it after a while. The album is crying out to be performed at festivals this summer and I do feel for Wolf Alice that they won’t be able to. On the other hand, I’m genuinely frightened by the idea that I could see them at a festival and be won over by their performance. Based on the better end of the output of Blue Weekend there is a very real danger of that happening. It wouldn’t be the first time seeing a band live has transformed my impression of them and, assuming that one day we might be back at a festival, it could happen again.

Having said all that (the silly songs and the debate about target audience aside) there’s still something I can’t quite pin down that’s stopping me from really liking Blue Weekend. I think it is this: where say The Big Moon or Self Esteem navigate the same pressures of their late 20s in an endearingly relatable way, Wolf Alice somehow come across in an aloof, “my angst is cooler than yours” way. But what do I know? It’s a number one album in the UK and the critics love it. It could even win them a Mercury again.

Words by James Spearing

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