Dirty Hit – 2021
There is an unspoken “curse” placed on artists who win the Mercury Prize that their next outing never quite lives up to its award winning predecessor. What Visions Of A Life showcased was a band at an important moment. Diverging their sound into various territories and sounds of punk, dream-pop, shoegaze and alt-rock; moving anywhere and everywhere. On Blue Weekend the band distill these sounds into a fluid story of self-doubt, longing and emotional triumph.
Throughout the narrative of Blue Weekend the band extract various stories of social affairs like the night out on the raging “Smile” or the trip through Los Angeles on “Delicious Things”. Picked from different worlds and places, they all collide together with the underlying narrative with the desire for freedom and happiness. “Could I belong here? The vibes are kinda strong here / Ask me if I’m from here and I won’t say no” sings Ellie Roswell on “Delicious Things”. She may be dabbling in pills and inhabiting with a “bad man named Adam” but you can feel this great sense of liberation pouring out of every moment. From the swaying harmonies to the coastal drifting guitar lines, the sound of this song is as delightfully delectable as the title.
Speaking of shorelines, the album is bookended by “The Beach”, which acts as the albums cinematic opening and closed with “The Beach II”, a dream-pop ballad that touches on the small beauty of those summer moments spent enjoying the natural world with friends. Not only do these songs set the scene for the album but they help bring about this narrative of connection. Although this album was largely written before any notion of the last year happened, it remains even more potent that these songs should define the journey through the album in this way.
There’s a certain dynamic switch that the band tap into on this album, and it’s one they play on for most of the track-listing. On “Feeling Myself” they switch from sultry mellotron chords and a lounge like beat, to suddenly burst out into a wash of synth-wave balladry. It sweeps and crashes over you like a wave of emotional triumph. It’s not only a switch up within the song itself, but coming straight after the pop-punk driven “Play The Greatest Hits” you feel as though you’re coming down after the excitement of a night-out and feeling the solitary blues you get in the morning after.
The title of the album Blue Weekend, comes from both a literal sense of seeing a blue sky at the weekend. And the melancholia of knowing that your weekend, no matter what happens, is going to leave you feeling blue. This sense of complete and utter disparity from the rest of the world is where the band finds their greatest moments on this album. “The Last Man On Earth” truly is an anthem for the abandoned. “And when your friends are talking / You hardly hear a word/ You were the first person here/ And the last man on the Earth” exclaims Roswell as she pulls apart every last emotion you thought you could hide. It’s that juxtaposition of being somewhere whilst feeling a million miles away that the band capture perfectly through slow building pianos and Beatles-esque guitar passages.
For all the moments of subtle beauty, like the fluttering and gut-wrenching “No Hard Feelings”, there are equal moments of outright bravado and showmanship. Playing it large has always been a trope for Wolf Alice, look back at “You’re A Germ” from debut My Love Is Cool and you’ll find a young band exploding with unkempt energy, packaging everything into every moment. On “Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)” you’ll find a track that is almost overpacked to the brink of spilling out at the sides. This move into folk-balladry is awry with beauty in the vocal and guitar passages, but just feels that slight bit too over-produced. Layers of harmonies sweep over each other to become so angelic that it feels as though the rawness and spirited energy that Wolf Alice has been known for has died a studio induced death.
The curse of the Mercury Prize seems to have been lifted though thanks to the incantations that Wolf Alice distill on this album. It showcases a band that have defined and refined their sound to become their most substantial and free-flowing album to date. Heartbreak and headbangers ensured, this is one for those dark nights sat alone.