It seems as though this album has been a long time coming. Over the course of the last two years, a number of tracks have been released by Pale Waves, indicating that something special might be afoot. Of course there are those who like to argue that the album as a concept is no longer relevant – but what a long-player from the quartet reveals is that they are capable of producing a comprehensive and cohesive work. Six tracks have been released from this album but in the age of streaming it feels like a gradual unveiling, rather than a whole lot of tracks you’ve already heard.
Formed by singer-guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran at university in Manchester, the quartet are completed by guitarist-keyboardist Hugh Silvani and bassist Charlie Wood. So where do Pale Waves fit in to the music scene of 2018? After all, guitar music is supposed to be in the doldrums. (Have we heard this before? Maybe it’s because I’m in my forties – but experience has shown these things to be cyclical rather than linear). Thing is, Pale Waves aren’t bothered about fitting in – and that’s one of their (many) strengths. They combine elements of alternative music (we’ll have to debate what that means another time, there’s only so many hundred words I’ll be writing for this review) going back several decades. Two months ago I saw them on a bill in London’s Hyde Park, headlined by The Cure, but also featuring Slowdive, Interpol, Goldfrapp and Editors. Pale Waves are younger than all those bands, but their appearance made – and makes – perfect sense, not only with their image but also with their sound.
The album opens with ‘Eighteen’ and ‘There’s A Honey.’ Whether you’ve heard these tracks before or not, these are perfect for kicking off proceedings, setting out the stall for what it is that Pale Waves are all about. That’s not to say that the rest of the album is simply carbon copies – for example, the wistful ‘Loveless Girl’ is followed by the rocky, and tempo-changing ‘Drive.’
The songs run the breadth of emotions – ‘She’ in particular is particularly charged and sees Baron-Gracie question whether her lover is cheating on her. It’s possibly a little clumsy lyrically, yet unquestionably heartfelt. Tracks like ‘Red’ and ‘Television Romance’ provide a counterpoint to this, yet the album finishes with ‘Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like To Die)’ which is beautiful, and chilling in its acoustic simplicity.
So, file them under electropop, alternative, shoegaze… whatever. The half dozen tracks we’ve been treated to are a true indication of how good this album is, and these are songs to be sung along to, moshed to, danced to. This is an album that could bring Britain’s divides musical tribes together. It’s not a leap of faith to imagine this band lighting up festivals themselves over the years to come. Sure, the lyrics might need a bit of polishing, but this is a strong debut from a band who understood the beauty of a POP song.