Sunday, May 28, 2023

Dream Wife’s new single ‘Who Do You Wanna Be?’ takes aim at faux activism while teasing new album

Anyone looking for a contemporary band that channels the most authentic spirit of old-school punk should stop to take a good listen to Dream Wife

The Brighton trio have deservedly made a name for themselves as one of the most immediately recognisable voices in alternative UK music. 

Their aesthetic is strongly reminiscent of the Riot Grrrl movement, with a sharp, snappy sound that sinks its roots in British hardcore punk and makes it contemporary and relevant. 

Judging from the four singles released so far, their upcoming album, ‘Social Lubrication’, to be released in June, remains faithful to the band’s identity in both sound and themes. The new tracks are packed with political, challenging lyrics, energetic in sound and perfect for getting the audience at a live show dancing—something Dream Wife have always been skilled at doing.

Now, with the album release looming in the near future, they are adding another piece to the picture with new single, ‘Who Do You Wanna Be?’.

The video sees the band perform, squatter-style, in an abandoned swimming pool, in another open callback to that rough, punchy punk aesthetic. The track engages with the all-too-relevant issue of dodgy activism: the kind made of soundbites much more than practical contributions, which cares more about projecting a certain kind of image in the public eye and ticking as many boxes as possible than about truly challenging the issues in society. The distortion of feminism is clearly particularly infuriating to the band, and it becomes a central theme in the lyrics, which spell the question out: “When the movement becomes part of the patriarchal system we swore to take down/[…] So what do we do?” The song does not offer an answer, but it offers a challenge: and in this it channels the very same spirit of the likes of The Clash or, even more to the point, The Slits.

Musically, it shares the freshness and immediacy that we have heard in Dream Wife’s previous albums, with a catchy riff leading the listener in almost immediately. The almost-spoken vocals make the track feel stripped down in a way that serves the message the song is conveying, the tinny scraps of guitar supporting the vocals as they take centre stage. It takes elements of songwriting that have been part of the punk toolkit since the 70s (and used by legends like The Exploited and the other UK 82 bands) and colours them with a tinge of contemporary pop. The simpler structure makes it punch harder, although it might disappoint some who liked the more experimental bits in their last records. But it is the musical language required by a song that challenges the emptiness of slogans that go nowhere, and therefore that needs to hit hard and fast, to engage and provoke. This it undoubtedly does, and it is an easy bet that it will summon a truly powerful energy when performed on a live stage. Together with the other newly released single, it cements Dream Wife as being a live band most of all, which in the era of overly polished production is something to be treasured.


Chiara Strazzulla


Image: ‘Social Lubrication’ Official Album Cover


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