In 2015, a little band from London called Wolf Alice released an album called My Love Is Cool. In 2017, that very same band released their second album Visions of a Life. They were not so little anymore, their growth in their popularity paled in comparison to the growth of their musical abilities. It’s been nearly four years since the release of that brilliant second album, but our favorite British Indie Rock band are back. And they’re back with a beautiful vengeance.
Blue Weekend, Wolf Alice’s highly anticipated third album, has just been released and it’s a treat. Forty minutes and ten seconds of some of their best music. It definitely shows how hard they’d been working in the space between albums. Not only is this album bigger and more beautiful than before, it’s cinematic and has a strong narrative. Each song is one piece in a much larger story, which isn’t something that they’ve ever done before.
So what is this story? Well it all starts on The Beach. As an opening track, this song draws us in and sets the stage. We’re looking back on the events that drove three friends apart. They used to meet every weekend for drinks. This song starts soft and curious, until it builds and builds. When it gets to the ends, we’re cresting like the waves, until it just crashes into silence. I close my eyes and imagine I’m not there.
But where are we? We’re going back in time and our first stop is Los Angeles, the land of Delicious Things. This song is pure sexiness, which Ellie Rowsell has always excelled in. Her whispering throughout is great. It’s a fun song. But it speaks of how our narrator makes her way to LA, to make her dreams come true. But she’s far from home and making bad decisions. Feels like I’m falling, dreams slowly stalling. She falls in love with a man who seems like he can make her dreams come true. He likes that she plays music in a band. But he’s a bad man. The repetition of Don’t lose sight feels like something she’s telling herself, but also what her friends back home probably warned her of when she left.
So she’s in with Adam. Her dreams quickly coming true. But he really was a bad, bad man. All is not well in paradise. Lipstick On The Glass shows that perhaps his promises were poison. She’s hooked though. The life she’s creating isn’t the same without him. Oh, but nothing seems inviting/Except the image of your open arms calling back/To me.
In Smile we feel just how out of place she is. The big city isn’t where she’s from, but she’s owning it. Owning who she is. It feels like she’s being paraded around, perhaps by Adam, or perhaps by whoever else is taking advantage of her. She gets called cute and sensitive. But she owns who she is. This is also one of the few songs on the album that leans into the band’s rougher side. It’s a welcome change of pace. Sip your drink, sip one more and you’re a star.
The next song, the next piece of the story seems fairly self-explanatory. With Safe from Heartbreak (If I never Fall in Love) it’s clear that the lipstick on the glass stained. He, whoever he was, left. She’s determined to be okay. But she knows she’ll never truly be safe from heartbreak. She can say it all she wants, but it’s too late. I ain’t a plaything/To make life exciting/I have feelings. And she’s not afraid to feel them.
As we come to the halfway point of the album, we come to what is, in my opinion, the best song. It’s also the turning point in the story. How Can I Make It Okay? is an internal conversation with our narrator. Nothing is going right. But all she wants is to be happy. Nothing is as important as that. Gone are the grandiose dreams and the chase of a relationship. This song feels the most poignant of them all. But to live in fear, isn’t to live at all.
An interesting note about How Can I Make It Okay? is it seems to contain a reference or at least a callback to The Wonderwhy, a song from their first album. In The Wonderwhy a repeated lyric is: Don’t leave me here when I’m not sold. While in How Can I Make It Okay? the narrator mentions that Someone like you shouldn’t be left unsold. Is there a connection? Maybe.
Back to the story, it’s time for the second rough and ragged song of the album, the one that is going to be the most fun to scream along to live: Play The Greatest Hits. In a response to the previous song, where we wonder why life is so slow, we’ve decided to get into the fast lane. And even that isn’t fast enough. Our narrator is angry, and as she dances and screams and curses the world, life gets faster and faster. She relents that she I fall in love with the first fucking creep/To open his arms. But she isn’t done yet.
We’re nearing the end of our tale. Our narrator has been through a lot. Feeling Myself feels like a foggy fever dream. Dancing in slow motion. Back at the bar, she approaches another man. I watch you as you’re watching me. This isn’t the same naïve girl from the beginning of the story. She’s in control. Calling the shots.
In The Last Man on Earth, is another song where it feels like the narrator is talking to herself. Her past self, the simple girl who used to work at the corner shop, talking to the one who has endured heartbreak and countless other horrors all in service to her dreams. Who are you to ask for anything else?/The thing you should be asking is for help. She’s disappointed with herself and the person she became. As she thinks about it, and thinks about her truth, everything she did? Was it all that bad? Was it worth it? She hedged her bets on love, but lost everyone in the process. She really is the Last Man on Earth, the only one she has left.
As we begin to say goodbye to the album, our narrator says goodbye to Los Angeles. To her grandiose dreams. No Hard Feelings could be about the men she loved and lost throughout this story. This could be her way to get over the loss. But I think this is also our narrator saying goodbye to the city. The place where she had it, then lost it all. And for everything that ends/Something else must begin. She doesn’t hate the men, she doesn’t hate the city. It’s a sad resignation. A bittersweet goodbye. Something new and beautiful will take its place.
And here we are at the end. A story that begins and ends at the beach. Our final song is The Beach II. But this isn’t the end. This is where the story begins. Before it all went wrong. The narrator is home, innocent, laughing and drinking with her girls. The three referenced in the first Beach. Placed at the end of the album, it’s a fond reminder to what was, and what could have been, had she never left. But it also shows the memories are what the narrator clings to in the end.
Happy ever after
This story and this album are a circle. Not only are we sandwiched between two Beaches, we also get to move through time with this narrator. There are a lot of references to circles throughout the songs as well, which shows that this was more than intentional on the band’s part. The beginning of the album tells us what we were in for from the very start: Pressed in my palm/Was a stone from the beach/The perfect circle.
It’s an impressive feat to tell a story to begin with, but to tell a story like they have, is amazing. This album is not at all what I expected, but it’s blown me away, and I can’t wait to see how they grow from here. Because there’s no doubt that they will.
Please do yourself a favor and listen to this album, then listen to it again. See how the story comes together and breaks apart.