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Pale Waves - My Mind Makes Noises (Album Review)

Monday, 24 September 2018 Written by Huw Baines

There are few more transparent lies than the suggestion that image doesn’t matter. Those who peddle it are usually paid-in-full members of the real music brigade, happy to sneer at pop stars while waxing lyrical about the famously gimmick-free music of the brothers Gallagher or Morrissey.

Straying into their sights are Pale Waves, an indie-pop quartet from Manchester who clearly aren’t followers of the gospel according to jeans and t-shirt. In fact, they look like they might one day manage to will the second coming of the New Romantics through the repeated deployment of lace collars over crushed black velvet. Unfortunately, the band’s sartorial style is playful and idiosyncratic in the same way that the music on their debut, ‘My Mind Makes Noises’, is repetitive and one-note.

Live, and in some fantastic music videos, vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie is an arch, charismatic presence. On record, she’s lost in a haze of borrowed guitar reverb and chiming synths.

The lion’s share of songs here want to be palatial and instantly gratifying but instead they leave a taste in the mouth that suggests we should be enjoying ourselves, not that we actually are.

Dismissing Pale Waves out of hand as a grand case of style over substance is a dangerous game, though. That would involve skirting around several promising moments, and also ignoring the fact that they aren’t the first band to perfect a look before they perfect a sound.

When Baron-Gracie has the melodic structure of tracks like Noises and Drive in her grasp, she displays a capacity for arena-straddling moments of grandeur. But they suit her drawled delivery precisely because they provide something that proves elusive elsewhere: rigid, satisfying hooks. When she’s tasked with manufacturing something from nothing - see the ineffective repetition of There’s a Honey’s bridge and chorus - the result is a sort of gauzy word vomit.

Pacing is also a serious issue. ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ runs to 14 songs and 50 minutes, despite leaving standouts from their early releases on the cutting room floor. Pale Waves’ sound is too reliant on layered vocal effects, shiny keys and Ciara Doran’s drums, which sound like the crystallized essence of the 1980s being hit with a toffee hammer, to hold the attention for this period of time. Strip away the obvious highlights and you have a dozen largely guileless re-treads of Taylor Swift’s Style.

With a co-sign from the 1975’s Matty Healy, and a support slot on their forthcoming arena tour, you can expect to hear a lot more from Pale Waves in the future. These tracks are clearly the work of young artists in hock to their influences, but they’re not entirely without merit. Baron-Gracie, in particular, could be a star. She already carries herself like one, but the music has some catching up to do.

Pale Waves Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Mon September 24 2018 - LIVERPOOL O2 Academy Liverpool
Tue September 25 2018 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Thu September 27 2018 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Fri September 28 2018 - MANCHESTER O2 Ritz
Mon October 01 2018 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Tue October 02 2018 - SOUTHAMPTON O2 Guildhall Southampton
Wed October 03 2018 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Fri October 05 2018 - BELFAST Elmwood Hall
Sat October 06 2018 - CORK Cyprus Avenue
Sun October 07 2018 - LIMERICK Dolans Warehouse
Mon October 08 2018 - DUBLIN Academy

Click here to compare & buy Pale Waves Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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