I remember hearing Wolf Alice for the first time many years ago now and was impressed with their 90s grunge-indie sound. My Love Is Cool came out in 2015. Two years later came Visions of a Life, and it became the album I listened to non-stop—the sound of my 2018, the soundtrack to my life. Now, after a three-year wait, Ellie and her gang are back with Blue Weekend.
Visions of a Life shone a light on the range of Wolf Alice. “Don’t Delete The Kisses” is about as uplifting a pop love song you can get. “Yuk Foo” is pure fun punk. “Heavenward” is a gorgeous cascading opener, and “Visions of a Life” is the most fun song to sing ever, with its changing rhythm and urgency.
Blue Weekend has a similar style in that it merges many genres into twelve tracks. I am already listening to it on repeat, which bodes well, as I admit that it takes something exceptional to reel me in like that these days. We are in an age now where singles seem more critical than albums, and as such, LPs are formed without much flow. Wolf Alice are old school. Their albums feel like albums that require listening to in their entirety rather than just skipping to the tracks you know and love.
Blue Weekend begins with “The Beach”, which sets the general tone of the album. Ellie Rowsell takes the lead with her sweet vocals, which build into an almost gospel crescendo. It’s gorgeous, and it makes you feel great, and that is exactly what we need in 2021. Ellie’s vocal is something else. She’s always been good, but there is a power in her lungs now, and it’s awe-inspiring.
“Delicious Things” has a Lana Del Rey style but with more oomph. So far, it’s my least favourite track on the album, but that could change by tomorrow. Perhaps it’s because I can’t relate to the lyrics here, which appear to be about Ellie’s newfound fame, hanging out in LA and taking whatever pills or lines she’s offered in Hollywood. It’s something she’s clearly nervous about, and it doesn’t quite feel like her life, but she’s going along with the ride. Track three, “Lipstick Still On The Glass”, is my favourite so far due to Ellie’s seductive siren call during the verses. It would fit right at home in a film like The Love Witch, with its kitsch 60s sound.
Single release “Smile” is up next, and it’s pure Wolf Alice — that song you’ll be singing along to at full blast driving to the beach. If you’re feeling frustrated/angry/angsty, listen and sing along to this; it will make you feel better. It’s hard to pull this kind of song off in this day and age. It is pop-rock, which can all too easily be bad, too commercial, too overproduced, but the band seem to know just the right formula to keep their edge. It’s always a worry when a band win a Mercury Music Prize. It usually goes one of two ways; the band disappear entirely up their own arses or just disappear full stop. Thankfully, Wolf Alice took enough time out to not get caught up in self-importance and stuck to their roots.
“Safe From Heartbreak (If I Never Fall In Love) is a bittersweet little ditty. If this album had been released in 1995, this song would have been a secret track that scared the shit out of you the first time you heard it as you didn’t realise your CD was still playing even. But, alas, it’s not 1995, so instead, it sits as a perfect halfway point of the album. So, it’s time to get your refreshments. Come back for Side B.
Welcome back! We go straight into another terrific little pop track here. “How Can I Make It Ok?” could quite easily be a Haim song, but it’s better than that. This is where the power in the vocals really makes the difference. It’s a dream-pop anthem that no matter what music you’re usually into or what age you are, you’ll find yourself singing along to it.
I think this is why Wolf Alice resonates with me so well. Somehow, Ellie’s lyrics always seem to reflect what’s going on in my life. I imagine it does the same for 15-year-olds, twenty-somethings and pretty much everyone. When I was a teen, I thought I’d stop feeling the raw emotions of love, lust and heartbreak when I grew up. It doesn’t happen though. You may get used to it and deal with it better, but those butterflies and sinking feelings, obsessive refreshing and looking at your phone for messages every 30 seconds are still there.
“All The Greatest Hits” is a frantic pop-punk track that sounds like two teenage Korean girls sing it. It’s a great track — a mix of “Formidable Cool” and “Yuk Foo”. “Feeling Myself” is the likely contender for my true favourite of the album. Ellie sings about how her man has had many lovers, but that doesn’t mean he’s any good at sex. So he watches her pleasuring herself. Hopefully, he’ll learn in time that giving is just as good, if not better, than receiving. The vocal sounds like a choir of angels, and the music rages into a blissful climax as she makes herself feel way better than he does.
“The Last Man on Earth” is another single already released from Blue Weekend. Ellie’s voice sounds like diamonds cutting through ice; it’s so clear and gentle until back up arrives and turns the song into a religious experience almost. I don’t think even atheists can argue that the sound of a gospel choir can spiritually uplift you like nothing else. “No Hard Feelings” leads on perfectly, with its sweetness and stripped back sound. I don’t know if Ellie has split with Isaac Holman (Slaves), but if they have, this song makes perfect sense and somehow, the kind words to her ex-lover make it all the more melancholy. Ellie had previously revealed that this song was originally just a pre-cursor in what would become a much heavier track. It is wonderful as it is, but I won’t deny that I would have loved to have heard it explode with rage. But, perhaps that rage just didn’t need to be sung about, maybe it’s all gone now, so there’s no point bringing up old shit.
“The Beach II” ends Blue Weekend with girlfriends hanging out drinking cocktails and enjoying their fellow females. It certainly feels like the step after the break-up, after the heartbreak, when your girls come to heal you with their potent love and mischief. If “The Beach II” was a film, it would be Midsommar, and quite frankly, it doesn’t get better than that.
At the moment, “Visions of a Life” still just pips the post for me on my Top 3 of Wolf Alice albums because it is darker and less perfect than Blue Weekend. But it truly is perfect. Wolf Alice are blossoming into one of the greatest bands on the planet; Blue Weekend was worth the wait. Whatever you’re going through and however you feel, whether it’s lost love, yearning, nostalgia, defiance or determination, there is at least one song on the album that will help you feel less alone with your thoughts. It is bold and beautiful and vulnerable in equal measure.
Blue Weekend is out now, everywhere. You should listen.