Album Review: Dream Wife – Social Lubrication

by | Feb 19, 2024 | Album Reviews, Blog

The third album from Dream Wife, Social Lubrication (2023), is a defiant declaration of feminist punk. The latest in a series of releases that have seen the London-based trio evolve from their 2018 self-titled debut through the critically acclaimed So When You Gonna… (Lucky Number, 2020), Social Lubrication builds on the foundations laid by its predecessors, pushing the boundaries of punk with indie and pop sensibilities, all while maintaining the band’s signature fuck you ethos. Known for their energetic and infectious live shows, Social Lubrication is Dream Wife’s best transfer of this to tape yet. On Thursday, February 29th, Dream Wife will debut in Bucharest at Control Club.

Dream Wife channels the spirit of Heart of Glass-era Blondie with a Patti Smith twist, balancing giant riffs, disco beats, and catchy hooks. Like the title song or the Pixies-esque Mascara, the resulting tracks resonate with vivid late-night tales and intense emotional undercurrents. It delves into issues of gender norms, music industry power structures, and sex positivity with intelligence and wit. “What’s it like to be a woman in music, dear? / You’d never ask me that if you regarded me as your peer,” singer Rakel Mjöll exclaims on the title track. Songs like Hot (Don’t Date A Musician) further encapsulate this. They showcase Dream Wife’s ability to blend serious thematic content with an infectious sense of fun. For example, the lyrics advise, “Date a plumber or an electrician / A landscape architect, even a magician / Date a professor, or a physician / Just anyone besides a musician.”

Mjöll’s dynamic vocal delivery shifts from the album’s macro themes. She swings from growls to melodic crooning. Her dynamic delivery resonates with the energy of bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Peaches. This is especially evident in the punchy surf rock of the opener, Kick In The Teeth, and the lead single, Who Do You Wanna Be? bring the focus back to Dream Wife’s cathartic energy. Similarly, the standout Leech exemplifies this power. It builds tension with repeated calls for empathy before erupting into a powerful chorus, “Just have some fucking empathy / The leech is out for blood.”

Not to be overlooked, guitarist Alice Go’s in-house production shines a light on the band’s knack for musical intricacy and lyrical sharpness, particuarly on tracks like Curious and Orbit. Curious is highlighted by the pop-rock appeal of not taking yourself too seriously, “I feel too sexy to listen to my friends.” Orbit then brings the album to a close with indie rock discernment edged with punk. The sensual Honestly features a nuanced layering that could be likened to a cinematic take on the female gaze: “A sweet sensation of a familiar face / A sweet sensation of a familiar place / Drowning me in this déjà vu.”

Social Lubrication is an assertive, fiery album. It’s a compelling mix of rock’n’roll defiance, feminist critique, and genre exploration that offers both songs and anthems for resistance and empowerment. It’s a reminder that even decades after the inception of the Riot Grrrl movement, there’s still a critical need for bands like Dream Wife, who unapologetically challenge societal norms and push for change.

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