So When You Gonna… (Pod/Inertia)
It’s the not entirely sardonic, not quite disdainful, not really stand-offish, but certainly very aware side of Dream Wife which seals the deal.
The London trio of Somerset-raised guitarist Alice Go and bassplayer, Bella Poppadec, and Icelandic/American vocalist Rakel Mjoll, have got energy to burn and while this second album is less unbound and frantic than the self-titled debut, it is plenty visceral and exciting.
Whether it is the Riot Grrrl shouty exclamations and guitar punctuations of the title track and Homesick, the grooved, sharp-hip moves of Sports! and Hasta La Vista, the album highlights which open the record, and the more angular east coast indie of Hold On Me and its RH RN, there’s a physical presence to this record.
This time it comes with their greater ease with variety, especially the free hand at matters lighter and melodic, that escalates one of the under-recognised aspects of that debut.
Temporary is unashamedly pretty, its guitar owing more to ‘80s Manchester than ‘90s Washington, while Old Flame happily wears a Blondie badge near its frosted tips; Validation pitches Juliana Hatfield at her firmest and Wire at their friendliest, together; and After The Rain, a held-in piano ballad that peeks at both Prince and Guns ‘n’ Roses - then looks away - becomes the natural extension of the dreamier, not yet without hope, U Do U.
Any, or more pertinently, all of these in combination across 11 tracks would be sufficient to get a better than pass grade. There’s a suggestion of songwriters reaching beyond their comfort zones – not just technically but attitudinally – and if not creating genius work then at least investing each leap up the scale with a quest for adventure.
After all, slapping us around is bold and fun, making an art project into a flurry of familiar but never wholly represented shapes, is smart, but sometimes the bravest move is slowing down and showing the moving parts.
The final element, the deal-sealer, are the lyrics. They’re good: biting and pointed, but also frank and funny; more and more personal but also crossing borders/boundaries/ages. Some of us – ok, people like me – are going to cut you a bit of slack when you nonchalantly kick off your album with a dry, spoken “Fuck sorry fuck please will you so kindly start again” and follow it with an extended games-and-sportsball metaphor that climaxes with a repeated “These are the rules” that is ice-cool.
But Dream Wife navigate offering support to a friend whose baby died (“How is it to love and live temporary/If the heartbeat fails,know I’m here/With a full embrace”) and the relationships that don’t survive a peripatetic life (“I know you’ll fall in love with someone who’s not so far away/It’s hard to build a home you never really stay”), as comfortably as they handle frank sex (“I like the way you soothe me/Each touch got me calling out for the tongue, cheek, nip, clit/Take a peek then come up for air”).
The running amok of “Drink whiskey/Break into a cemetery/Thought it was a cemetery” comes in the same song as the poetic realisation of self that is “We look, we drink/We find divinity in the faces of our friends who are experiencing/And nobody fits in”. And the idea of active consent – basically not waiting to be asked or having your signs read but taking charge – finds lust and humour intermingled (with a droll but perfect kiss-off I won’t spoil for you) in a hectic rush: “When you gonna take that hand off my leg and move it higher up … Pull me closer this is all going to waste …Alright so I guess I just have to spell it out for you/When are you gonna kiss me?”
That works for me.