Dirty Hit signees The 1975 and Pale Waves bring their beautifully unique take on pop to Arena Birmingham, Nina Avitabile reviewsWritten by Nina Avitabile on 18th February 2019
Album Review: Pale Waves – My Mind Makes Noises
Music Writer Andrew Pollard is not impressed by Pale Waves' uninspiring debut, a record that, according to him, fails to escape melodramatic mediocrity
A lot has already been made of Pale Waves’ evident identity crisis, and for good reason. Goth-dom doesn’t appear to be merely a passing phase for the band: it’s a lifestyle, mum. Vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran look like they mistook The Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint It Black’ for a TED Talk, the result being a seriously committed aesthetic. Frost-white skin, black everything else; it all holds together perfectly as long as you ignore the two other dudes who must’ve wronged Heather at some point and have thus been relegated to wearing strictly regular-people clothes.
“The consistency of their committed aesthetic falters when you hit play on their debut album
The consistency of this image falters a teensy bit more, though, when you actually hit play on their debut album, My Mind Makes Noises, and are confronted with…extremely conventional synth-pop? Eh? How is this the band making this music?
Ignoring aesthetics for a second, the group’s musical stylings make total sense. They’re signed to Dirty Hit; a label known for pushing acts as black and brooding as The Japanese House, Superfood, and The 1975; they were propelled to popularity in part by playing support on The 1975’s North American tour last year; their first two singles, ‘There’s a Honey’ and ‘Television Romance’, were produced by Matt Healy and George Daniel from The 1975; and the music video for ‘Television Romance’ was even directed by Matt Healy fro- wait, have I mentioned The 1975 a few too many times already?
“It’s reductive to view Pale Waves as simply a by-product of Healy and co.’s influences, but the compositional similarities were there from the outset
To be fair, it’s reductive to view Pale Waves as simply a by-product of Healy and co.’s influences, but the compositional similarities were there from the outset, and this does go some way towards explaining why they seem desperate to carve out such an extravagant image for themselves. Put bluntly, My Mind Makes Noises just isn’t enough to make the band memorable on its own.
It’s hardly awful. There’s a decent amount of chugging synth-bass and sparkly guitar work that sounds solid in isolation, particularly on ‘Noises’ and ‘Television Romance’, which feature genuinely catchy choruses and crisp guitar leads, even if the latter does come off as a slightly more consequential retread of ‘There’s a Honey’. The instrumental that closes out ‘When Did I Lose It All?’ might sound like the end of an episode of Gossip Girl, but it features nicely layered production and gratuitously dramatic guitar that’s difficult not smile at, and opener ‘Eighteen’ begins with atmospheric arpeggios that would be a great teaser of things to come if said things weren’t a numb head and a desire to never speak to a young person ever again.
“Pale Waves’ greatest problem is that, one album in, they’re already lyrically and sonically stagnant. The debut is nearly an hour of what feels like the same clichéd love song
I say that because Pale Waves’ greatest problem is that, one album in, they’re already lyrically and sonically stagnant. Listening to nearly an hour of what feels like the same clichéd love song, I found that several breaks were necessary simply to avoid getting a headache. Aside from the album closer, there are two types of song to be found here: Baron-Gracie is either blissfully caught up in a whirlwind romance, or tearing herself apart over the end of another. Lines like ‘Is it really me that you want?’, ‘Baby are we gonna make it this time?’ and ‘Won’t you give me one last night?’ make up the bulk of the album’s lyrical offerings; statements vague enough for an anxious teenager to project themselves onto, but so disposable that tracks, especially in the latter half, bleed together even with repeated listens.
What notable lyricism there is acts only as a detriment to the record overall. ‘Are you getting off with someone else?’ is rendered with earth-shattering consequence on ‘She’, while ‘When Did I Lose It All?’ sees Baron-Gracie at her most laughably noncommittal with ‘I wanna marry you / But not now’. Lacking any instances of remarkably deft writing, it’s these moments of borderline self-parody that stick out above all else, and Pale Waves risk becoming defined by their greatest faux pas.
“It’s a decent groundwork, but potential doesn’t make their current output any less of a slog. Neither does the eyeshadow
The record closes with a slow, pared back, heartfelt track about one of the singer’s family members, as all the best The 1975 albums do. It’s harmless, it’s different, but it’s effectively a bonus track and I won’t be revisiting it. Honestly, I’d struggle to say the vast majority of songs on here are even bad. Taken individually, it’s all pretty inoffensive stuff. Perfectly fine. Permissible. Good background noise. The moments when Pale Waves go beyond this level, though, are far too rare to make My Mind Makes Noises gripping or worth returning to. It’s a decent groundwork, and with some development the band could eventually produce a genuine hit — I’d bet a non-substantial amount of money on it — but potential doesn’t make their current output any less of a slog. Neither does the eyeshadow.
My Mind Makes Noises is available now via Dirty Hit, with Pale Waves’ tour UK commencing January 2019. Tickets are available here.