Dream Wife’s band name is a dead giveaway of the sharp commentary on the femme objectification that they simultaneously reclaim and protest in their music. Guitarist Alice Go, bassist Bella Podpadec, and Iceland-born vocalist Rakel Mjöll started Dream Wife as a performance art project while studying at Brighton University in 2014 but the chemistry between the three was too powerful to deny letting loose to the public just once.
Femme punk and alt-rock fire run through Dream Wife’s self-titled debut, released on Lucky Number Records out of London. The band is unafraid to wear the influences of obvious references like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and The Slits on its sleeve, but the 2000s New York City alternative rock scene resurfaces in a few of the cuts on their debut. Dream Wife takes the punk ethos and sprinkles in traditional pop sensibilities that come out of the oven as glossy guitar bangers that are as energetic as they are threatening. Guitar melodies on “Kids” and “Right Now” hint at The Strokes while the unhinged screams of album opener “Let’s Make Out” are reminiscent of the rawness channeled in Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Kills.
Dream Wife encompasses moods and themes explored in other albums in the riot grrl galaxy but differentiates itself from others by presenting itself as a total package – the music, visuals, and atmosphere are on a planet of their own. The Dream Wife universe protests rape culture head-on in songs like “Somebody” next to a sweeter cut, “Fire,” which was inspired by the band members’ collective fiery energy and their unanimous fire astrological signs (Sagittarius, Sagittarius, and Leo). Dream Wife is excellent at playing both submissive and dominant. Sweetness is placed directly next to aggression. The end of the album sees this theme in the most jarring way as the yearning for brief intimacy on “Spend the Night” comes right before the most aggressive and intense song of the band’s catalogue, “F.U.U.” “I’m gonna fuck you up/gonna cut you up/gonna fuck you up” screams Mjöll over angular, menacing guitar chords, showcasing the band’s fury full-frontal.
Other tracks “Kids,” “Act My Age,” and “Love Without Reason,” are semi-naïve post-teenage nostalgic anthems about being forever young and in love. While songs like this are a dime-a-dozen in the genre, Mjöll’s unique voice and sweet hooks make these songs undeniably unique. The catchiest cut on the album, “Hey! Heartbreaker,” features well-known guitar-rock hit elements like handclaps, backing “hey’s,” and a crunchy guitar lead that begs to be thrash-danced to. Soft grunge is dead but Dream Wife is more than a post-Tumblr-Hot-Topic revivalist act – their grunge can actually be soft without coming off as trying too hard. Fierce feminine energy is never lacking in the rock world and Dream Wife’s debut doesn’t disappoint as a memorable mark that doesn’t box itself into a corner.
Recommended If You Like: Bikini Kill, The Slits, Hole, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bully
Recommended Tracks: 1 (Let’s Make Out), 2 (Somebody), 4 (Hey Heartbreaker), 11( (F.U.U.)
Do Not Play: 11 (F. U. U.)
Written by Scott Knettle on 03/26/2018