Album Review: Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend (2021)

2017’s ‘Visions Of A Life’ was possibly the greatest album to ever be released, so how on earth could Wolf Alice follow up perfection without their third one feeling like a letdown? By creating yet another masterpiece which, given time, memories and a few hundred listens, is more than capable of fighting its predecessor in the boxing ring.

Being someone who’s musical experience is so intrinsically linked with colour and other senses, it perhaps allows me to love this album without being able to compare it to the last, despite how similar its constituent parts are. The whole album gives me the chill of a winter’s night, but with the reassuring, safe glow of a singular streetlight wrapping its arms around me. ‘Blue Weekend’ may conceptually be about a night out – which is probably at its most obvious in the transition from ‘Play The Greatest Hits’ – a riotous, chaotic unleashing of punk energy on a dancefloor – to ‘Feeling Myself’, which could easily be the comedown from such an exhilarating high. But back to ‘Play The Greatest Hits’, which is my personal favourite here – just in the instrumentation, it feels like you’re already listening to this in a nightclub, or at a packed gig, and even if you’re lying in bed it feels like a moshpit. It’s art, it’s pure genius. To then transition into something as vulnerable as ‘Feeling Myself’ – although vulnerable in a strong, bold way – feels like a true night out. When you’re drunk, and suddenly you’ve gone from the life of the party to crying in the corner, realising that boy is just a massive dick and you’re having major life revelations at 3am with only a bottle of wine and a kebab for company. Never has a scene so tacky been presented so classily.

This could be the soundtrack to a film – indeed, it is, as Wolf Alice are releasing a visual film for the entire album. I really hope I can see it in some way as it can only intensify the feelings ‘Blue Weekend’ releases in me. ‘Last Man On Earth’ was a strange one for me as being the first single, and I didn’t feel it at the time – but it fits perfectly into the full piece. Before it felt like an attempt to go for the John Lewis Christmas advert song, now it’s a haunting, cathartic centrepiece. When the guitars and backing kick in halfway through, it elevates you, and you feel like you’re listening to something higher than just a piece of music. This was the song where Wolf Alice reached 100% confidence, a theme which definitely runs through all 40 minutes – this is a band who are at their peak, and they know it, and they know we all know it too. And instead of backing away, they’ve subtly grown into it. ‘Smile’ is my favourite of the previews, with Ellie’s pseudo-rapping over a badass bassline making it a stand-out in a collection full of them. When a singer tells us she’s ‘angry’, or ‘seems unhinged’, often the delivery disproves this instantly. But the disjointed, jumpy nature of the song only amps it up to seventeen, and her vocals evoke the pure insanity of Formidable Cool. ‘Lost souls congregate at the bar’ is probably my favourite line from the album, as it pretty much sums up something which I’ve always tried to define and failed. Although as we already knew, this band is a collection of masterful poets who use sound as their medium.

‘No Hard Feelings’ and ‘Safe From Heartbreak’ are a pair for me, even if it’s purely for the soft, nursery-rhyme-esque melodies in both. The former, in particular, is beauty. It feels like inner peace has been found, and she’s let go of someone who she still deeply cares for, but knows that isn’t good for her and vice versa. She’s at peace with her past and decisions and ready to move on, in a Fleabag ending kinda way. ‘Delicious Things’ is maybe a surprise pick for song 2, but it’s wonderful – a sprawling five minute track which both sounds retro in the best way but still authentically Wolf Alice – and a brutally honest monologue on temptation. The transition into ‘Lipstick On The Glass’ is perfection, although maybe that’s because Lipstick is also perfection. It maintains the slow ride energy with a sense of longing, nostalgia but currency, and just pure ethereal gold.

I truly can’t think of a bad thing to say about this album. A pre-release rating of 97 on Metacritic is a hard thing to live up to, but it deserves it fully. Their music doesn’t suit the release of singles, as the only way ever to truly feel it is to listen to an entire album, as they weave stories and sound so perfectly that it shouldn’t ever be taken apart. This is a new classic, and one, in future years and generations, which will be held up as a seminal record of its time.

Ryan’s Rating: 10/10

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