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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Music Reivew-Goth-pop band replaces 1980s gloss with 2000s grit

Photo+courtesy+of+Dirty+Hit+%0APale+Waves+makes+their+return+after+a+near-fatal+tour+bus+crash+in+February+2020.%0ABecause+of+COVID-19%2C+the+band+had+to+record+the+album+apart+from+each+other.
Photo courtesy of Dirty Hit Pale Waves makes their return after a near-fatal tour bus crash in February 2020. Because of COVID-19, the band had to record the album apart from each other.
Photo courtesy of Dirty Hit
Pale Waves makes their return after a near-fatal tour bus crash in February 2020.
Because of COVID-19, the band had to record the album apart from each other.

Logan Evans
campus editor/photographer

The most uncanny quality music holds is the ability to transcribe time and place so instantly. Something as functional as the tone of a synth or the depth of a snare can be heard years later and bring to mind the fashion, culture and attitude of the era it was played in. 

Manchester goth-pop band Pale Waves understands this. 

Their 2018 debut “My Mind Makes Noises” was a glossy riff on ‘80s post-punk, dressed up with the pulsing synths and dreamy choruses of bands like New Order and The Cure. They wore the sound well, stitching it together with modern pop songwriting and trendy production that earned them a co-sign from alt-pop giants The 1975. In the time of ‘80s nostalgia, Pale Waves still managed to tread boldly into the future. 

Now the band is back with a sophomore album that sheds most of that ‘80s gloss to indulge in the sweet melodrama of early 2000s alt-rock. 

The most apparent influence on “Who Am I?” is pop-punk princess Avril Lavigne. The album art alone — a hazy, fluorescent portrait of the band with singer Heather Baron-Gracie brooding cross-armed in the center — echoes the cover of Lavigne’s breakout debut “Let Go.”

The album bursts with triumphant power-chord anthems and driving acoustic ballads, almost any of which could have made the career of a one-hit-wonder 20 years ago. It sounds fast and slow, euphoric and somber, celebratory and downtrodden at once.

Baron-Gracie has said that she wanted to write an album reflecting the music that shaped her. By that logic, the sound of “Who Am I?” might be the ideal vehicle for the album’s subject matter. The title might suggest self-reflection or even self-doubt, but that’s only part of the picture. 

“Who Am I?” is not a question Baron-Gracie is asking herself, but one she is fiercely answering.

The song “She’s My Religion” is the brooing examination of a same-sex relationship. “You Don’t Own Me” is a spitting rebuke of the patriarchy, where Baron-Gracie sings “I’d rather pull out my teeth than be what you want me to be.” “Change” mourns the growing disconnect between two people. Some of these themes have been explored in the genre before, but Pale Waves does so with admirable conviction.

 Sonically, the album works best when Pale Waves is blending the same portions of old and new sounds that made their debut interesting. Unlike their debut, “Who Am I?” sometimes falls too heavily back on the old. Still, even the more derivative songs shine with the band’s razor-sharp songwriting. At a trim 11 songs, “Who Am I?” doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a fast-paced, victorious proclamation for Baron-Gracie, dressed up in the sounds that shaped her.  

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