When you first see Dream Wife on stage, especially if you don’t know anything about them, you get this strange feeling that they’re unusual. They carry this contagious energy that has nothing to do with trying too hard. They know how to have fun, and they know how to make promises for the future. All it takes is for you to look into lead singer Rakel Mjöll’s eyes and be instantly hypnotised.
Telling your band’s story with your eyes alone is a gift we rarely encounter: and her eyes tell us that they’re mystical creatures, here to have fun but perhaps take you away if you sink too deep. Dream Wife hold many secrets and many stories, and only the deserving ones can hear them without getting hurt.
But you know, in a good way.
Rock bands have always carried an aura of importance around themselves. Dream Wife, on the other hand, don’t seem to take themselves too seriously. They make being in a band look like child’s play, as if it’s just an extension of their intertwined selves. It has something to do with the fact that they started off as an art project: ‘guitarist age 25 looking for drummer, bassist and singer, preferably in their 20s’ didn’t apply here. They started working together organically, led by an interest in art, music and how to make the world a little bit better, perhaps.
If any ambition blossomed from their initial efforts, it came later: as an improvised experiment with no particular goal ahead, they created something purely inspired by who they are. A few years, an EP and several singles later, they’re about to release their self-titled debut album.
Let’s Make Out tells us we’re about to begin a careless journey, get drunk and be young forever. But after listening to the entire album, the track sounds more like a smirk, falsely setting you off on a reckless ride only to discover that there is also seriousness, anger and pain along the way. This song is the expected colourful freedom of being an adult. But we all know too well that the slap on the face you get as soon as you’re on your own hurts more if you were unprepared.
Soon enough, we encounter the pain and anger no one told us about – or perhaps they did but we didn’t listen. Somebody is a much needed discussion about being female, and in a lot of ways it is quite straightforward in its intentions: “I am not my body / I’m somebody”. Mjöll’s voice sounds close to your ear, so close that it might enchant you; it accentuates the words in a much more effective way than screaming. This chorus has the potential to live long in the upcoming decades, to hopefully remind and educate the future generations of a time when being female and being equal didn’t belong in the same sentence. It’s almost sad we still need songs like these – but they unveil a truth everyone knows and is afraid to say.
Like several of the tracks on the album, we have previously heard Hey Heartbreaker in a more rough, DIY version. This new, improved sound, however, allows the song to be lifted above its improvised roots. The lyrics tell yet another familiar story about being young and naive, pushing limits a bit too far, taking what doesn’t belong to you. If only we knew if it was real life or imagination that inspired them: “And I see you in my dreams / And then I see you talking to your wife / And I see you holding your child”.
“Let’s be kids and fall in love”, Mjöll sings in Love Without Reason. Her crazily versatile voice focuses on more carefully melodic delivery of the words, as opposed to her usual brand of stating, or even half-shouting lyrics as if protesting against everything. The lyrics suggest that the trio still remembers innocent love and the power it has to confuse you and lead you in the wrong direction – perhaps not even just romantic love, but any hope and excitement you have for the future when you’re young.
The collision of expectation and reality is one of the main themes of the album: being young and stupid gives you the wrong idea about what’s right and what’s wrong. But then, isn’t that part of the fun? Not knowing what lies ahead. Loving without reason and without a plan. Knowing that you don’t have to grow up if you don’t want to, as long as you hold on to that feeling forever. You know which one.
At this point we should be glad Dream Wife aren’t yet big enough for MTV, for if they were to appear on TV with the album closer, we wouldn’t be able to hear 80% of the lyrics: “I’m gonna fuck you up, gonna cut you up, gonna fuck you up”. Thankfully, they’re still one of the UK’s gems, still to be found in some of its smaller venues, not really underground but not yet mainstream either. This is certified by FUU, their most energetic, powerful song yet. Seeing this track performed live feels like witnessing a much needed revolution, a riot led by girls pissed off for all the right reasons. A lot of what they’re saying musically and lyrically is a reflection of the mind of any woman out there who’s ever been out after midnight, has felt eyes on her, has been chased, stared at or sometimes even worse.
This is the next level of the self-proclaimed girl power from the 90s: stronger, wiser and braver. The idea of the dream house, dream job, dream kids and dream wife only exists to remind us of what we shouldn’t be. With all of the sarcasm they have stored throughout the years thrown into the eyes of the world like sand, Dream Wife forget all pretences and flip a middle finger to all useless stereotypes. 26th January 2018 marks a new beginning of being excited to be female.
Dream Wife play The Workman’s Club, Dublin on Sunday 25th March with support from Limerick-born, London-based trio whenyoung.