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Pale Waves - Who Am I? (Album Review)

Wednesday, 17 February 2021 Written by Huw Baines

The desire to dress up mainstream pop music as something different—something more dangerous or provocative—has been around since the penny dropped that rebellion shifted units. Pale Waves’ 2018 debut ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ ran headlong into this dynamic and faltered: for all the eyeliner and goth stylings the LP fizzled once its anodyne hooks failed to scratch beneath the surface.

Its successor is more comfortable in its surroundings. ‘Who Am I?’ ditches the Sisters of Mercy cosplay in favour of inhabiting the slick pop-rock of the late 1990s that set the table for Avril Lavigne’s blockbuster crossover success. Here Pale Waves find more room to manoeuvre, favouring the crunch of their guitars to add heft to choruses that skew anthemic. But there’s still one crucial thing missing.

You can say ‘this is an anthem’ but that doesn’t make it so. While album two is a step up from album one in almost every department there is still a certain melodic savvy missing; a twist or turn to make us think we’re in for something new, different, and exciting.

Inspired by ‘Jagged Little Pill’-era Alanis Morrissette the opener, Change, is perhaps the best song here but we’ve heard its stop-start grandstanding before, most recently in the shape of Beabadoobee’s grunge-obsessed Care. She’s My Religion, too, is a sickly-sweet pop confection with an old school radio-ready hook that fades from view all too quickly. 

Perhaps most disappointing, though, is how quickly ‘Who Am I?’ becomes a drag. At only 33 minutes long it should rattle by, puncturing the bloat of the band’s debut in the process, but by the time I Just Needed You comes and goes without landing a punch it has run out of steam. Lyrically there is insight and candour that outweighs the presentation—vocalist and guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie can do snark and romance equally well—and yet it’s not enough.

Pale Waves Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun May 30 2021 - BIRMINGHAM Various Venues
Fri February 11 2022 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Sat February 12 2022 - CARDIFF Great Hall - Cardiff Uni
Sun February 13 2022 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Mon February 14 2022 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Wed February 16 2022 - BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy Bournemouth
Thu February 17 2022 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Sat February 19 2022 - BELFAST Limelight 2
Sun February 20 2022 - DUBLIN Academy
Mon February 21 2022 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Wed February 23 2022 - SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Fri February 25 2022 - LEICESTER O2 Academy Leicester
Sat February 26 2022 - OXFORD O2 Academy Oxford
Mon February 28 2022 - LONDON Roundhouse
Tue March 01 2022 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse

Compare & Buy Pale Waves Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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