Canadian indie rockers Alvvays hit back with their 3rd effort ‘Blue Rev’. This time round the group open themselves to a heavier sound full of reverb and fuzz in an attempt to expand their reach.
Pharmacist kick starts with a 2 minute burst of Lo-fi buzz with Molly Rankin’s soft vocals floating to the top. The track could easily be mistaken for Soccer Mommy with its dreamy nostalgia and ethereal guitar breakdown.
Audio fuzz leads us into lead single ‘Easy On Your Own‘ which speaks of the monotony of living a life simply going through the motions. The abandonment of dreams and ambition; doing what you despise just to get by “fill out the requirements on the page and burn out before you get paid”. Rankin pleads for these people to step out of this life, take a step back and re-evaluate what is important to them “ever lay back and watch the sunrise?”. A sugary pop melody which creates an instant sense of familiarity fitting perfectly in Alvvays cannon.
The record finds itself in a malaise after the strong opener, the jangly dream pop of ‘After The Earthquake’, the heartbreak drone of ‘Tom Verlaine’ and the generic indie ‘Pressed’ all fail to inspire; forgettable tracks that serve as filler all too soon into the record.
‘Very Online Guy’ gets us back on track with it’s compact repetitive chime the epicentre of a song destined to be danced to. ‘Very Online Guy’ is representative of the growing culture of men online who pester women and are a general virtual tyrant “likes to hit reply”. The song also discusses the superfluous nature of constant communication becoming increasingly meaningless “one filter away”. Lead singer Molly Rankin making disparaging remarks at the increased online presence of these people who force their aggressive ill prepared views and live in these highly conspiratorial realities “it’s incredibly visible we all know everything he says and does”
‘Tile by Tile’; a tonal shift from its predecessors . It’s a softly spoken and heavy hearted song that exemplifies the enchanting powers of Rankin’s vocals. A synth drone emerges from the depths as the track builds before bursting through in the outro. Arguably the best showing of the sonic expansion Alvvays have conjured up on Blue Rev.
‘Belinda Says’ is dream pop in full effect. Screeching vocals mirroring the uncertainty of the protagonists view on growing up and finding their place in the world “paradise and I find myself paralysed”. The track is also a commentary on America’s abortion laws “circumspect when you call collect to see if I would keep it”. Alvvays are full of vigour with this single, a focused effort; harnessing their vitriol and disdain for the establishment and firing this through the of the multicoloured prism of dreamy synth pop.
‘Bored in Bristol’ is a late night drive with it’s smooth synths cascading across its duration. Rankin voicing her displeasure of stagnation. “Always waiting”. Wanting a restart away from despondent locals and glum surroundings “getting on the last train no one can stop me”
Alvvays try to expand on their sound with ‘Blue Rev’ but are wide of the mark on several occasions. It’s not a huge enough shift from previous releases to be labelled experimental. It’s still quintessentially Alvvays but the songs aren’t as good. This doesn’t mean the record is a lost cause, there are several high points which demonstrate the talent Alvvays possess. ‘Very Online Guy’, ‘Easy On Your Own’ and ‘Belinda Says’ will be immediate crowd favourites and the introspective ‘Bored In Bristol’ is a sultry alleviating pleasure. A mixed bag from the Canadians who are reaching a fork in the road. All eyes will be on where they decide to go from here.
Key Track: Very Online Guy