Dream Wife first caught my attention with their debut record and the single Hey Heartbreaker. It was refreshing to hear a track that was not only a decent punk rock song but radio-friendly and with female vocalists. The world needs a few more Debbie Harry types around, doesn’t it?
These three are here to punch their way to the top and building on the solid foundations of their first album, their sophomore refines their sound and attitude. Clever lyrics and heavy guitars with catchy melodies make for a difficult second album sounding effortless.
Opening track Sports! sets the tongue in cheek, no-nonsense attitude that runs throughout the record. From the opening spoken lines of “Fuck. Sorry. Fuck. Please. Will you so kindly start again?” to the “Choose your player… Player 1… Player 2… On your marks!” that sounds like something from an old-school arcade fighting game, and the sarcastic refrain throughout of “These are the rules. Boss!”, there is a snide and knowing look to the band through their presentation and I love it.
Hasta La Vista and Validation bring a quieter vibe that is almost cute in delivery (especially on the former). There is also something very 2009 in feel here. I feel like they are reminiscent of Kings of Leon or someone from around that time (obviously not Sex on Fire, but some of the other tracks on Only By the Night maybe?). Maybe it is the effect and pattern on the electric guitar?
The sneering returns on Homesick and as they kick up the rock while skulking about in the verses and breaching the chorus with a rock-and-roll vocal whine and rowdy guitars.
Temporary has sat on the long-list for my weekly playlist posts for over a month. One of the leading singles, I’m still not 100% convinced by it but it makes a touching album track. Likewise, U Do U is an unassuming, tender track that passes by without much fanfare offering a mid-album break.
RH RH stands out for me for the way they put an Eleanor Roosevelt quote to music: “We are the oldest we have ever been We are the youngest we will ever be. Right here, right now”. Albeit it’s the kind of thing you find on a motivational poster or mug it crept up on me and was genuinely quite motivational and reassuring as much as it hurts to admit it.
Old Flame is a more emotionally touching song here in particular with its chorus lyrics. It is firmly grounded in reality while kindly and pragmatically reflective on past romance. Also, that vocal line with the backing vocals response is really enjoyable:
“Remember when you loved me, old fla-ame old fla-ame“.
The title track, When You Gonna…, is the most raw and rowdiest track here also with a lot of tongue-in-cheek. It is the only place we see Dream Wife hit at the level of sonic aggression of Hey Heartbreaker from the first record. A simple theme, fantastically presented in a way that allows the music to drive proceedings, complete with punch-line. I’m a fan. I can imagine the pits on the academy tour already.
The lilting chorus line of Hold on Me is a charming listen amongst a sedate and steady track. A welcome breather after the fiery onslaught of its predecessor in the tracklist. After the Rain then leaves you on a very mellow note in stark contrast to the jagged, jangly or melodic guitars of all that came before, it is a piano-led ballad that doesn’t grip the attention in the way the rest of the album does. While I can appreciate what they are aiming at here, I don’t think it lands and instead delivers an unexciting and relatively unremarkable track to finish on.
Tones of late ’00s Kings of Leon play up against the snarky punk rock sound that launched Dream Wife into our consciousnesses with their first record to navigate the second album deftly. It neither sounds too much like the first to feel like a ‘debut point five’ extension but also manages to navigate the tempting pitfalls that come with the options available for a second record.
If you like this record I might point you towards Mannequin Pussy’s third album Patience by way of further listening. There is something very exciting about a well-executing female rock back or punk band and they are another great example.
Worthy of note here is that Dream Wife produced this with an all-female team. The music industry has possibly the largest gender disparity of any – up to 95% male in some disciplines. As such, I feel it is necessary to point out where ladies are breaking the boundaries. Where appropriate and possible I seek to shout about female bands and producers. Sadly it still feels like a rarity. On a related note, it is such a pleasure to have the ‘problem’ of covering five+ good quality records from female artists or part female bands that dropped in the space of 2 weeks (reviews coming weeks after release as a result!). It will be interesting to see the gender split in my own coverage come the year-end… but these are discussions for another time.
Highlights: So When You Gonna…, Old Flame, Sports!, RH RH