The album is their first since 2017's Visions of a Life Wolf Alice

Winning the Mercury prize does strange things to people. In the almost three decades it’s been around, only one artist (PJ Harvey) has ever won the award on multiple occasions. For many, it’s been a burden. In 2001, Damon Albarn asked for the self-titled album from his then-new project Gorillaz to be removed from the shortlist, with cartoon band member Murdoc Niccals describing the award as ‘like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity’. So it’s understandable that Wolf Alice, who won the prize with their sophomore album, Visions of a Life, would want to take some time to plan their next move.

Taking their time was a good decision. Three and a half years after that record, the group have come out with Blue Weekend, a fantastic album featuring some of their most mature writing and a subtle but noticeable refinement of their sound. That sound is difficult to pin down – influenced by shoegaze, punk, arena rock and dream pop in equal measure. Importantly, it’s a sound that’s uniquely theirs: theirs to mould and shape and evolve to their content. On this album, the band largely opt for a more expansive and reverb-heavy approach than on its more angsty, pugnacious predecessor. The first song, “The Beach”, features a slow build, but eventually swells into a huge, richly-layered anthem. It sets the tone for the rest of the record, which sees the band hit us with gorgeously arranged vocals, spaced-out synthesisers, and stadium-filling guitars and basslines from band members Joff Oddie and Theo Ellis respectively. It feels fresh and gratifying without reinventing the wheel.

‘this is a band unafraid to put themselves under the spotlight in their music [...] These songs are fundamentally rooted in personal experiences.’

Lead singer Ellie Rowsell’s songwriting has always been excellent, and this album features more of her deeply personal storytelling combined with lyrical cleverness. Relationships are a favourite topic of the band; their first album was, after all, titled My Love is Cool. While her lyricism and vocal delivery on this record never touches Visions of a Life’s most visceral moments – at no point on the album does she scream ‘But that’s all he fucking did when he fucked you on the floor!’, for example – she still talks incisively about the topic. They’re songs about love, but they’re not ‘love songs’. Fans looking for that intensity can still find it in full flow on the frenetic “Play the Greatest Hits”, and also on “Smile”, where lines about how ‘Lost souls congregate at the bar’ mesh well with Joff Oddie’s nasty, snarling guitar licks.


Other songs are more thoughtful. The folksy “Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)”, is about independence, with lyrics about not being a ‘plaything to make life exciting’, and “Feeling Myself” is a song which tackles the concept of ‘pleasure’ in the broadest sense, and features an astonishing, shimmering synth which bursts into the track halfway through. As it does so, Ellie Rowsell sings ‘Keep my name on your lips, / Let the double L feel like a kiss’. Moments like these remind you that this is a band unafraid to put themselves under the spotlight in their music. They’re not talking about some vague, universal concept of a ‘lover’ or an ‘ex’. These songs are fundamentally rooted in personal experiences.

The record showcases the full breadth of the band’s abilities, from wispy, washed-out songs like “Lipstick On The Glass” – perfect for midway through a festival setlist – to songs like “The Beach II”, featuring the kind of fuzzy, wailing guitars that you’d find on a My Bloody Valentine record. This extends to the songs’ subject matter, too: “Delicious Things” is about the experience of trying to make it in the music industry; the lyrics are carefully balanced between hopeful optimism as she ‘give[s] it a shot for a spot at the top’ and her feelings of intimidation and alienation when ‘a long way from home’. Often, this range can be seen on individual songs. The lead single, “The Last Man on Earth” is the standout track, and also the one which encapsulates the album better than any other: beginning with a threadbare piano and vocals so soft they’re almost whispered, the track crescendos into life with Joel Amey’s thumping drums and a lush string arrangement. It could easily have petered out here, but the band push on with a riff reminiscent of Wings’ “Live and Let Die” before Rowsell’s verses return – loud, defiant, vibrant.


Mountain View

Wolf Alice: Back And More Powerful Than Ever

Wolf Alice are a band who’ve found their sound, and there’s so much joy in listening to a group play with this kind of confidence. There’s no truly massive track on this record like “Bros” or “Don’t Delete the Kisses” on their other two albums, but Blue Weekend is so cohesive that I never felt anything lacking in that regard. It would have been easy to fall off course after Visions of a Life, the Mercury Prize, and the pressure of a pandemic, and this record is a testament to both their ability to innovate and their willingness to finish what they started in 2013 with the Blush EP. These eleven tracks feel like a culmination. Let’s hope they aren’t done just yet.

Blue Weekend is out now on Dirty Hit