The Divine Excellence of Wolf Alice’s ‘Blue Weekend’
Being a hardcore Wolf Alice fan since the early days of their conception made me unsure if they’d be able to keep topping themselves. In my mid high school years, I was going to their shows with gold glitter under my eyes, throwing and receiving punches in the pit, and riding the bus to school the next morning listening to songs like ‘You’re A Germ’ on repeat. The angst of their first record, ‘My Love is Cool’ was everything I needed and more at that time. So much so that the words became my first tattoo, scribbled in the lead singer, Ellie’s handwriting on one of my old tickets. I wasn’t sure if it could get better than that.
When their second record, ‘Visions of A Life’ came out, it felt like a reiteration of all my emotions and feeling being sung back to me. Songs like ‘Planet Hunter’ and ‘Formidable Cool’ carried me through to college. ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ was an instant classic and to this day, is still one of their best songs, at least in my opinion.
With all of that being said, ‘Blue Weekend’ is a true work of art that exceeded all of my expectations and more. ‘The Last Man on Earth’ was the first single to be released after years of almost complete (and painful) silence. The song was slow and soothing and even though I was expecting some traditional screams from their first return, this single choice felt right. The eloquence of the lyrics such as, “And when your friends are talking / You hardly hear a word / You were the first person here / And the last man on the Earth / But does a light shine on you?” show a magnific evolution from earlier works and have the power to strike you as lightning would. I knew from that moment that this album was going to be a force.
‘Smile,’ being the next single, gave us a glimpse back to the classic Wolf Alice that they never lost touch of. The song is perfect for a mosh pit (hopefully some day soon) or even for crowd surfing, as Ellie frequently does at shows. It’s layered with angst yet gives off a sense of confidence, and Ellie proclaims, “I am what I am and I’m good at it / And if you don’t like me, well that isn’t fucking relevant.” These lines display an interesting juxtaposition from the Ellie that we see in interviews, who is quiet and reserved. Seeing this different and much louder and angrier side to her only further proves the band’s multifaceted and jolting elements. Followed by heavy guitar, the song feels electrifying and overflowing with power. Lastly, the standout line tucked into the bridge, “lost souls congregate at the bar" makes me feel beyond excited for post-pandemic life, as we near close to what is hopefully the end.
Something else that really stands out on this record is the harmonies and their intricacy adding a sense that the sound, standing all on its own, could fill up an entire arena. Tracks such as ‘The Beach,’ ‘Delicious Things,’ ‘Lipstick on the Glass,’ and ‘Feeling Myself,’ have a quality to them that feels as though they are erupting, at one point or another, making the listener feel surrounded on all sides, by the choir of complex harmonies and vocal arrangements.
The lyrics of this record also bring a strong element of sophistication and growth, while never failing to be relatable, just as they were on the first record, which felt more like an ode to being trapped in your hometown. For example, in ‘Delicious Things,’ Ellie describes being in Los Angeles, feeling a bit out of place while still trying to find a sense of belonging as she embraces the glamour, yet not without analyzing it first. She sings, “I’m socially anxious and a long way from home / I’ve only just learnt my margarita from mojito, so / Could I belong here? The vibes are kinda strong here / Ask me if I’m from here and I won’t say no.”
Ellie’s vocal range on, probably one of, if not my favorite track, ‘Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love),’ is astounding and soothing, with the way her voice trails up and down with ease, paired by the gentle yet complex guitar. It’s ethereally blissful and perfectly raw.
Wolf Alice embraces newness and explore new territory flawlessly, all without losing their old sound entirely. It doesn’t necessarily feel as though they are finding their true sound with this record but instead have mastered an evolution without losing their key traits and intoxicating aspects that they’ve brought to the game since day one. With that being said, Blue Weekend is more refined and diverse than anything they have done before. It feels as though you are floating through space with a purpose and it all feels like a pleasant dream. From the heavy guitar to introspective lyrics and angelic as well as gritty vocals, I will not hesitate to say that this body of work is a true masterpiece. Exhilarating and thunderous, yet hypnotic and tender, Blue Weekend is a powerful comeback after four years of silence, although I argue that the wait was certainly worth it.