Mercury prize winning Wolf Alice have yet again given us something really special, in the sentiment and power of their latest album ‘Blue Weekend’.
Ellie Rowsell (vocals/guitar), Joff Oddie (guitar), Joel Amey (drums) and Theo Ellis (bass) had a very busy three years or so following the release of their Mercury Prize winning ‘Visions Of A Lie’ – 272 gigs in total, touring just about everywhere on our little planet, before lockdown intervened.
A follow-up to such a successful album after many months on tour can’t be easy. Creating substance and meaning after the slog of shows and flights and hotels and long bus journeys across many miles needs life experiences far away from the touring bubble. Wolf Alice certainly grafted. Ellie concluded “When we stopped touring, I thought ‘F*ck, I haven’t written any songs…’.”
So what do you do if you’re a band and you’ve had a really successful tour, following a really successful album, yet now you’re looking at each other, very tired, with no new songs? Well, Wolf Alice headed for a quiet Air BnB in Somerset, and it was here that they reconfigured who they were together – no awards shows, no festival screams. They cemented their friendship, and worked on demos in a converted church. Theo: “We didn’t have a filter on any ideas. Any idea was a good idea at that point. And we did everything really haphazardly, but it was just about getting it working again, having a place to convene, getting ourselves into that atmosphere.”
So fast forward to today and we’re presented with an album that shows Ellie has developed as a writer; the band were struck by the maturity of her lyrics, which meander between storytelling and confession, to a backdrop of powerful yet delicately woven layers of bright melody, coupled with swathes of earnest backing vocals.
You’re introduced with ‘The Beach’, a mix of calm beat and muted guitar picking, leading to a really sweet vocal intro from Ellie. Harmonies melt into focus quite beautifully from the second verse, the drums dominate the outro, crashes rising and then…silence. If you’re anticipating complexity of emotional narrative with Blue Weekend, then you’ll be quite satisfied.
There’s a lot of character and melody crammed into ‘Delicious Things’. You’re almost being told a secret, then the vocal crescendo crashes in. The quirk of fast-tremguitar then leads the way keeping you fascinated for what’s round the next corner.
If you like the idea of Agnetha and Anni-Frid from Abba doing a collab with Fleetwood Mac then ‘How Can I Make It OK’ is definitely your song. But then without any warning ‘Play The Greatest Hits’ gives you a friendly punk kick in the face. Blue Weekend just about covers ever guitar genre in one album, then electric piano leads you into ‘Feeling Myself’. This song is full of sumptuous strings that on headphones sound incredible – beautiful circulating width to the sound, again powerful chorus from layers of Ellie’s vocals.
The dynamic of secret whisper escalating to vocal chorus swathes is Ellie’s signature these days and it really works. Her voice definitely has pitch-perfect character and she always tells the story well. Thankfully, the writing from the whole band is not in that dreaded ‘safe zone’. They keep you interested with articulate detail and the odd quirk. ‘No Hard Feelings’ is a calm, gorgeous lean towards a sound reminiscent of Warpaint. Lots of space around gentle octave picking on the bass, lyrics serenely concluding:
“And for everything that ends
Something else must begin
No hard feelings honey
And we both will take the win”
Yea, Wolf Alice’s job with Blue Weekend is beautifully written, it’s nostalgic, slightly gritty but overall a powerfully melodic singalong for sure. The production by Markus Dravs has incredible detail – definitely one of those albums where you hear something different every time you play it through. He has three Grammys and three Brits to his name, so the very fact he took it on shows the initial quality and style. Markus Dravs has worked well with Wolf Alice to create a very lavish sound indeed.
With Wolf Alice’s Blue Weekend, you’ll definitely feel yourself wanting to sing into your hairbrush…or shaver, depending.