I don’t envy the position Dream Wife must have found themselves in last summer. Entering the studio again after creating and touring the force of nature that is their self-titled debut, the pressure must have been immense. How does one follow up such a masterpiece of crushing feminist punk? I would have chosen the easy route – a more intense album full of ‘F.U.U.’ styled rock machines.
Fortunately, I was not in the room. Instead, So When You Gonna… tends towards the more personal, more intimate vulnerabilities inherent in just being young and making the most of what life lays ahead of us. Even better, it’s been done far more naturally than other bands that have taken a similar leap on their second albums, not naming anyone in particular.
Before I expand on that, I should reassure you. Moshpits aplenty will appear in the live show. Singles ‘Sports!’ and ‘So When You Gonna…’ get pretty crazy live in my experience.
The less in-your-face approach was introduced first with ‘Hasta La Vista’, a single which is indeed excellent, yet slightly disappointing for not being capable of sound-tracking the sorts of Arnold Schwarzenegger style action the title brings to mind. It does, however, fit the traditional farewell meaning of the title. While probably intended for someone a bit more than friends – whoever they’re goodbyeing (that can be a word if I want it to) is referred to as ‘baby’ after all – I find it fitting the end of the year experience well. With friends flung across the globe, I can only hope that they remember me in my best light and that when we meet again, I won’t be my typically uselessly awkward self. Such is the wonder of interpretation.
The absolute highlight of this sound, if not the entire album, has to be ‘Temporary’. Frankly, I lack the words to articulate how incredible this song is. As a deeply personal piece written for a friend going through a series of traumatic experiences, its entirely gentle, accepting, and entirely entrancing. Just go and listen to it. This review will still be here when you’re done.
Closer ‘After The Rain’ goes even further, more a piano ballad with touches of very vibey guitar than anything else. Thematically, it is in line with 2018’s ‘Somebody’ as an unabashedly feminist piece. The open advocation of women’s rights to abortion is powerfully discomforting. While I have the privilege of not having to face the injustices perpetrated globally against women, this doesn’t mean I should get to forget about their existence as I so often do. Just because things appear ok in my surroundings doesn’t mean the world is a good place, and in the wake of the events of the past few months, this has never seemed more important to recognise.
The album isn’t a total dichotomy. ‘Homesick’ beautifully strikes a balance of heavy and gentle. While the instrumentation has got more bite, singer Rakel Mjoll aspires to some incredible vocal flexing, and there’s even a moderately raucous (by Dream Wife standards) middle8/outro kinda thing, the emotional tone is absolutely there. “We can take it in turns being the stronger one” is the standout line here for me.
Overall, So When You Gonna… is doubtlessly a fantastic album. While not the follow up to 2018’s self-titled debut that I may have envisaged, this different track is by no means a bad thing. Unfortunately, I am a tasteless and uncultured swine, and therefore the louder and less subtle of their two albums is my favourite as I write. A solid 4/5 to be sure.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
My Rough Trade Exclusive ‘Pokeball’ vinyl preorder (there are pics on my insta (ooh subtle) to illustrate how cool this looks) included two bonus tracks, which my laptop recognises only as ‘Track 12’ and ‘Track 13’. I think they’re called Cheap Thrills and Bad Habits respectively, but I’m not sure.
People missing these tracks aren’t missing out in the context of the album. To go from ‘After The Rain’ into, well, anything at all seems sacrilegious.
Both tracks are of the more danceable persuasion. ‘Track 12’ is the moodier of the pair by quite a distance. The vocals are low and husky, the bass is driving, and the pace is steady. It doesn’t quite grab you, but with the seemingly crowd-driven middle 8, it should absolutely work live. Otherwise, it’s not the most adventurous either musically or lyrically. I’m not complaining or upset, just not overly enthused.
On the other hand, ‘Track 13’ features GIRLI, so I automatically love it. It opens with a monologue over a very angry sounding guitar, sounding very much like an assessment of an English course. It’s actually quite fun, as is the instrumentation of the rest of the song. You wouldn’t expect that if I said it’s a song about the importance of vocalisation, but what a world we live in. This could actually be my favourite song on the whole album. What a wild world.
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So When You Gonna… is available to stream on all the platforms, or to buy anywhere that sells good music. At the moment of writing it’s top 20 in the UK Album charts and is the only independent record to be there. Furthermore, it’s the only record in the charts with a team comprised wholly of womxn behind it. When this goes live, you have about 12 hours to buy the album to help keep it there.
As always, support your local bad bitch.