Alvvays’ Blue Rev is Music Feeds’ Album of the Week. David James Young reviews.
There are generally two ways for a band that’s spent half a decade in absentia to emerge from the woodwork. One is to unveil something drastically different to what’s come previously, showcasing growth and betting the house on a grand artistic statement. The other is a road seemingly less travelled: to simply show up, plug in and get back to work.
Alvvays: Blue Rev (PIAS Australia)
To say that Blue Rev – the third studio album from Toronto indie darlings Alvvays, and their first in five years – sounds very much in tune with their previous two records is not to disparage the band. If anything, it’s a testament to how self-assured the band’s sun-kissed blend of indie rock, dream pop and shoegaze has been since they captured hearts and minds with 2013’s ‘Archie, Marry Me’.
If there’s any acknowledgement of how long it’s been between drinks, it’s in the urgency of opening number ‘Pharmacist’, which was also the album’s lead single. The track moves at a brisk pace, with Molly Rankin’s laconic vocals and a steady build of guitars reminding us of Alvvays’ long-lasting appeal.
As Blue Rev progresses, the band’s songwriting continues to reach this high bar. Even when Alvvays deviate into niche corners of the musical spectrums they occupy, each move feels like a natural extension of the band’s creative practice. For instance, the slinking, synth-driven kiss-off of ‘Very Online Guy’ is a contrast to the the coming-of-age movie soundtrack pastiche ‘Velveteen’, but both make total sense under the Alvvays umbrella.
This versatility expands to the album as a whole. Whether Rankin and lead guitarist Alec O’Hanley are letting the guitars jangle against a flurrying beat, playing out like listening to The Smiths guilt-free, leaning the guitars against the amps to ring out every last bit of feedback, or giving the guitars a breather to focus more on Kerri MacLellan’s beds of keyboards, all paths serve the songs on Blue Rev.
Alvvays – ‘Pharmacist’
The story goes that, in addition to the stock-standard COVID setbacks most bands have seen over the last few years, Alvvays lost a hefty supply of demos through a stolen recorder and a basement flood. Blue Rev is a quality record regardless of context, but this knowledge makes you appreciate not just the band’s consistency and versatility but also their perseverance.
The only real low-point on Blue Rev is ‘Fourth Figure’, the album’s closing track. At one minute and 20 seconds, the wafting synth-strings are pretty but also half-formed. It would make more sense as an interlude track, but as a closer it feels like a road to nowhere. What’s even more confusing is that the preceding track, the emotive slow-burner ‘Lottery Noises’, would have made for a tender, pensive closer.
This minor quibble aside, Alvvays have made the five years between albums feel like a Narnian time slip. With Blue Rev, they’ve forged something endearing and idiosyncratic, and one of 2022’s essential guitar albums. Nearly 10 years after ‘Archie’, the honeymoon phase is still very much in effect for Alvvays.
Alvvays – ‘Very Online Guy’
- Alvvays’ new album Blue Rev is out now.