London based power punk rockers Dream Wife are back with the follow up to 2018’s grinding self-titled debut album that saw the band breakout into the wider world of ‘indie’. Attributed to this breakout was the gritty riffs and forward thinking lyrics that focused on themes such as feminism and gender identity. Originally the band started out as an art school project, almost as a bit of a joke. They even filmed a ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ style mockumentary, encompassing the songs that would eventually be part of an art gallery exhibition. Now on ‘So When You Gonna…’ the hard hitting moments of previous outings are less prevalent, leaving way for a more intimate sound.
What also helped make Dream Wife’s debut album to hit a groove with people where the explosive live shows in support of it. Being named as “one of the most exhilarating live rock bands to emerge in the last few years” by Billboard. This explosive energy does make a return on this album, but this time only intermittently. Opener ‘Sports!’ kicks into action with its soaring riffs and chorus chants of ‘Sports! These are the rules’. It’s not even afraid to get a bit goofy as the arcade style player choice lines announce over the sweeping synthesisers. A sign that this album isn’t going to follow suite with its predecessor. Which becomes apparent straight afterwards with the heartfelt ‘Hasta La Vista’, swaying between its more indie pop riffs, melancholic chorus lines and ad lib farewells to a past lover. The big riff does make a return on ‘RH RN’ alongside its power rock anthemic chorus lines of “We are the youngest we have ever been, We are the oldest we have ever been right now, Right here, right now”. But past these moments the initial spark that started the fire behind the bands core seems to be lacking.
On many occasions on this album it feels like the songs are ready to explode into action, but fall short at the hurdle. One of the most prominent examples is on the track ‘Homesick’ as it the band screams into the chorus after a long build up, just for it to dissipate into a loose drum beat and a somewhat ‘heavy’ guitar line. There’s an apparent sparseness to their sound that they appear to be playing with, but it often appears to be largely uninspired. Leaving just the most basic of instrumentation left and the vocals are tasked with carrying the song along. ‘Temporary’ is perhaps one of the blandest sounds on the album that rarely deviates from its indie-pop centric chord progression. A sound that carries through onto ‘Hold On Me’ which has a bit more prowess in its chorus harmonies, but throughout the verses and build ups the instrumentation drags along, taking away the momentum found in the chorus.
There are however rare moments that do allow the more intimate side of their newfound sound to resonate through. Closer ‘After The Rain’ is an emotionally packed piano ballad that speaks on the topic of abortion. As the distant sound of rain plays in the background, lead singer Rakel Mjöll passionately proclaims “It’s my choice, my life, It’s my will, my sacrifice, It’s my body, my right, Not for others to decide”. The raw emotion packed in this song is channeled in every aspect, closing the album on a powerful statement of allowing women to have choice over what happens with their; somewhat redeeming the underwhelming journey it took to get here.
For all its missteps and missed opportunities, this album still proves that Dream Wife can pack a punch when they want to. And they still keep their vision of forward thinking lyrics and themes as prevalent than ever. If they are going to embrace a less gritty sound, then giving it a bit more substance to back it up would help elevate it to their previously found heights of sonic explosiveness.