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Issue 1768 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

Keep the Cat Free

A Love Letter to Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice release their latest single 'The Last Man on Earth', and I am reminded why I fell in love with this band.

Img 7923 Photo: Rosie Millns


in Issue 1768

‘The Last Man on Earth’ is divine. As I am listening to the single premiere on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show, I feel like I am floating slowly through space, or sinking in a still ocean, the sun’s glimmer reflecting through the clear water and fading as I descend. I feel tranquil and at peace. Maybe it is how emotional the track is, or maybe it is bittersweet nostalgia, but by the time I am on my third listen of the track I am ugly crying.

why does everything have to mean something more?

Wolf Alice have excelled with this track, which is the lead single from the band’s upcoming third album, Blue Weekend, due to be released on June 11th. I don’t know how they always do it. Somehow, they always manage to create songs that resonate so strongly with me and how I am feeling at the time of release.

Blue Weekend Album Cover Photo: Jordan Hemingway
Blue Weekend album art

Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell has said that the track is “about the arrogance of humans,” and how we are desperate to find personal-meaning and interpretation in art, asking “why does everything have to mean something more?”. At the same time, she describes the forthcoming album that the track is the lead single from as an “album for other people”, reflecting on her own tendency to search for art that makes you feel seen. The single perfectly encapsulates that duality, merging self-awareness of our tendency to force personal meaning into art (does a light shine on you?) with open lyrics to find personal meaning in, with Rowsell acknowledging that there is “a lot to dissect” in the track. A line that struck me was lines between lines between lines that you read about yourself – this lyric wholly captures my own personal experience with Wolf Alice’s music.

it is ambiguous if [Blue Weekend] is something sombre or something happy

’The Last Man on Earth’ gave me the bittersweet feeling of reminiscing on times you spent with people you haven’t seen in the year. You’re happy, and you’re filled with love for the people in your life, but you can’t help but feel sad that you can’t relive those moments. Perhaps this is due to my personal connection with the band – Wolf Alice evokes memories of a life before lockdown, where I could be in a crowd of thousands, my arms around my friends whilst we were on shoulders screaming the words out to ‘Blush’, or dancing with the people closest to me in a group hug for ‘Bros’, crying because the song expresses the love that I have for my friends better than I ever could. The lyrical content of the song does not explicitly discuss these feelings – but the emotion of the song made me feel retrospective.

Img 7926
Wolf Alice at Kentish Town Forum, March 2016

Bittersweetness is a sentiment that pervades throughout this release – even the album title, Blue Monday, induces it. Rowsell says, “when we were in Brussels recording […] there was a forest [near the recording studio] and it had been a really beautiful day [with] clear blue skies and I said ‘the next blue weekend we should go to that forest.’” The phrase stood out, and “it just felt right [as the name for the album]”. Explaining the sentiment behind the album name, Rowsell says, “it is ambiguous if that is something sombre or something happy”. The wistful poignancy of the title permeates into the emotion and evocativeness of the track.

’The Last Man on Earth’ is the ideal song to reflect on the previous year. “You were the first person here / And the last man on the Earth” conjures up the loneliness of lockdown. “When your friends are talking / You hardly hear a word echoes feelings of disconnect from those around you in an increasingly interconnected world. This is me projecting my own retrospective feeling onto the song – all the tracks on the album predate lockdown, and were written and fleshed out during a week-long trip the band took to Somerset to write music together, after a 6-month break from the band at the conclusion of an intense tour. Lockdown occurred whilst the band were midway through recording at a residential studio in Brussels. “2020 was either really good for your creativity or really bad,” says Rowsell. “[We were] lucky we had these songs […] formed them in 2019 ready to record in 2020 […] to focus our energy on.”

there are still things that people who like Wolf Alice will recognise in our DNA now

One of Wolf Alice’s strengths is how they always manage to subvert expectations. From the aggressive vocals on ‘Yuk Foo’ to the whispery romanticism of ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’, the band excel at pushing sonic boundaries. Their second album, Visions of a Life, was a dreamy, atmospheric departure from the indie-pop and sweaty mosh-pit headbangers of their debut album My Love is Cool. The band don’t limit themselves to only exploring genres between albums, with a lot of diversity and change of pace between tracks on the album too. Sophomore album Visions of a Life interchanged between the anxious and introspective, the celestial and melancholic, and the grungey adrenaline-filled tracks that made us fall in love with the band back in 2013 with the release of ‘Fluffy’. That is not to imply that this exploration of genre is something that came as the band grew – back in 2013, with the release of the band’s debut EP Blush, Wolf Alice demonstrated their range, with the EP featuring the fast, angsty and heavy ‘She’ immediately after the soft and lamenting ‘Blush’.

Img 7925 Photo: Amelia Gosling
Wolf Alice at Kentish Town Forum, March 2016

Blue Weekend was recorded in a converted church with Markus Dravs, at ICP studios, where the band’s second EP Creature Songs was recorded. Whilst the band have evolved since 2014 when the EP was released, echoes of the ambience and melancholy on the EP can be heard on ‘The Last Man on Earth’. The single defies preconception of a Wolf Alice song, and is a departure from anything the band have ever done before, a high accolade for a band known for their genre defiance. However, as guitarist Theo Ellis put it, “there are still things that people who like Wolf Alice will recognise in [their] DNA now.”

Wolf Alice recognise their fans' DNA too, allowing them to create songs that so powerfully resonate with listeners. The connection between artist and listener is strongly entwined, with the band maturing with an audience who grew alongside them, in what is almost a symbiotic relationship. Perhaps this puts more weight behind their growth, with recognition of the band’s song-writing evolution tinged with nostalgia for adolescence.

Img 7924
Wolf Alice at Kentish Town Forum, March 2016

For me, Wolf Alice were the band that opened up a world of musical genres. Different periods of my youth coincided with a new era of Wolf Alice, and my adolescent memories are sound-tracked by their albums. I remember sneaking in underage to their gigs, my friends and I rehearsing our false GCSE subjects and dates of birth in the queue; I remember camping in my school-friends’ back-gardens in the summer with My Love is Cool blaring out; I remember the last time I saw them, being stood in the crowd at a festival on the hottest day of the year, as the rain starting to fall as the band performed ‘Silk’, in a moment that felt celestial and other-worldly.

Img 7927
Wolf Alice at Alexandra Palace, 24/11/17

Maybe my love for Wolf Alice is rooted in the memories I built around their music. I can’t help but view the band in the context and background of nostalgia for youthful memories. Nonetheless I anticipate that Blue Weekend will soundtrack my university years. On June the 21st, you can guarantee that I will be in the Hawley Arms, having a pint with my best friends, and listening to Blue Weekend. And when Wolf Alice inevitably announce a tour, I will be in the crowd hugging and crying with all my friends as they play ‘The Last Man on Earth’.

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