While it’s easy to hate on pop these days, it’s not without its fun or room to try out new things other genres can’t. This said, Pale Waves latest offering seems so content to just make pop with lyrics offering the only sense of something original that they make something decent but forgettable. At the end of the day this really is more of a pop album under the guise of rock, but blurs the lines of genre enough to be interesting.
The invigorating electronic runs that kick off “Eighteen” land squarely between indie and top 40, and it only hurts Pale Waves because of how close their melodies are to other hits. While there’s something powerful in the sounds they bring, it’s not memorable from a writing perspective. This is why “There’s a Honey” has a nice fierce quality to it, not unlike Sky Ferreira, but a little more jangly in its guitars. “Noises” isn’t really original but Pale Waves offer up enough impassioned vocals and neon production to keep us hanging on every word.
As they hit a racing pace on “Came In Close” Pale Waves give enough sporadic synth hooks and vocal delivery to give Chvrches a run for their money. Unfortunately this does mean the track is far too familiar to stand out. “Loveless Girl” falls even deeper into the band’s derivative sound, but ends up producing some of their most uniquely aggressive vocals. Pale Waves do start to play around with arrangements to make something interesting on “Drive” however, as their synths run and they use their space a lot more conservatively.
“When Did I Lose It All?” holds nothing back in its emotionally transparent breakup pop, and makes up for its straightforward synths with a shocking story. It’s too bad that one chorus in however, you know exactly where the song is going next. Even the sparse writing of “She” however doesn’t save how safe it really is, as much as its guitars can be fun. On this note however, “One More Time” at least really leans into its pop core to keep things light and high-energy.
Through its distorted guitars and pointed hooks, “Television Romance” sees Pale Waves between Haim and Ferreira. Despite this notable line of influence the pointed production and infectious hooks make this one of their more memorable tracks. On a similar note, “Red” kicks out with easily familiar delivery, but it’s the ecstatic way they deliver them and produce the track that shows their creativity. “Kiss” pushes this to its absolute apex, making something so bubblegum you’ll want to bop around and just kind of lose yourself in the moment.
“Black” itself does bring a lot more grime and heavy sounds than much of the record, while sounding like punk-pop with a little more synth sheen. It’s intriguing however to hear a track like “Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like To Die)” that brings such a true pain and earnest sadness that it makes the rest of the record seem more plastic. This moment is the strongest of the album and honestly shows where Pale Waves could stand to improve their writing as a whole.
Words By Owen Maxwell