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When a band debut with a self-titled album, this usually suggests one of two things: clarity of vision, or a lack of creativity. Dream Wife by Dream Wife showed every sign of being the former, a punk album with a rare all-female line-up, a promisingly ironic title, and plenty of media hype. However, upon listening, the album was a disappointment. It takes the abrasive power and strong feminist message of riot grrrl bands before (the likes of Sleater-Kinney) and simply repackages it under a new name. Musically, the album is okay. In terms of message, it lacks both impact and consistency.
Checking it at just 37 minutes, this album is a blast of energy that ends as abruptly as it starts, providing some head-nodding tunes and a few stand-out lines along the way. Ultimately however, the album lacks enough substance to make you want to listen through again.
The lyrics often disappoint. ‘Hey Heartbreaker’, one of the album’s strongest tracks, contains the lines “I know I’m young / And I know you’re old”. Straight away there’s intrigue: what’s the dynamic between these two? Is the singer celebrating the age gap or just accepting it? Is the relationship exploitative? All of these are valid and interesting questions given the themes stretched across this album, but then the next line continues: “I know I’m old / And I know you’re young”, undoing all the work of the line before. The sentiment becomes generic, the lyrics unengaging, and the song loses any sense of purpose other than to sound exciting. Of course there’s nothing wrong with making music that just sounds cool, but from a band who clearly market themselves as progressive and subversive, it feels like a waste of potential.
The lyrics to ‘Act My Age’ have similar pitfalls: “You tell me I should act my age / Well I guess I am” is vague enough for anyone to relate – everyone has an age, and everyone acts in a certain way. Specifically, it might be targeted at a younger listener (or anyone who’s ever been young, which is everyone) who has ever been spoken down to by an adult. There is an attitude of rebellion against condescension coming from the delivery of the lines and accompanying pop-punk guitars, which does redeem the song to an extent, but sadly with lyrics this generic, the whole thing feels hollow.
Perhaps the most criminal line of all is “I spy with my little eye bad bitches”, which makes up almost the entirety of the album’s final track. The line says nothing at all. And then ending the album with a chant of “Bitches! Bitches! Bitches! Bitches!” seems more like a lazy attempt to shock the listener than anything else. This moment is almost typical of the album. It appropriates the grungy sound and in-your-face feminism of the riot grrrl era not to make any kind of point, or even to sound exciting and fresh, but seemingly just because it’s a formula that’s already been tried and tested.
Dream Wife by Dream Wife is safe – the one thing a punk album never should be.
Dream Wife are touring the UK this March for the following dates, with support from Whenyoung:
20/3 – The Exchange, Bristol
21/3 – Heaven, London
23/3 – Stereo, Glasgow
24/3 – The Deaf Institute, Manchester