Dream Wife – ‘So When You Gonna…’ review: the swagger of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the sneer of riot grrrl

The outspoken Brighton punks are back to finish what they started, smashing the patriarchy with hooks and excoriating, witty lyrical missives

Brighton trio Dream Wife, who last year headlined one of NME’s Girls To The Front gigs – showcases for female and non-binary artists – have never taken anyone’s shit, and they’re not about to start now. Their stellar self-titled 2018 debut album was stuffed with feminist punk anthems and Rakel Mjöll (vocals), Alice Go (guitar) and Bella Podpadec (bass) have delivered an outspoken, subversive follow-up.

‘Sports!’ is a perfect album opener. With a discordant guitar riff, Mjöll comes in with “fuck sorry / fuck please will you so kindly start again”. It is a call-to-action for womxn everywhere – stop apologising for what you do, and just do it.

‘Sports!’ is an urgent and adrenaline-fuelled song, layered with many different meanings and dripping with sarcasm. The song is an ode to the time the band spent together while writing this record, expelling some of their post-tour energy after spending nearly two years shouting and playing crashing guitars on stages across the world. It’s a playful track full of sport clichés, as Mjöll sings “put your eye on the ball when it’s in your court”, with the song exploring the sexist trope of male condescension in sport. “Do you even play this sport?” she asks ironically.

The song’s hook sees her repeat “put your money where your mouth is” – and Dream Wife certainly do that. The band have been outspoken about the gender inequalities in the music industry and wider world since their inception, and worked with an all-female recording team for ‘So When You Gonna..’., including producer and mixer Marta Salogni (who’s helmed projects from Björk, Holly Herndon and FKA Twigs).

The team of womxn who supported this album can be heard throughout the record – it just sounds organic and comfortable. “It was amazing to work with this community of womxn who are supporting each other in an industry that is so male-dominated, bassist Bella Podpadec has said in a statement. “It was a way of us practicing what we preach.”

Read more: On the cover – Dream Wife: “Just because we’ve got vaginas, it doesn’t make us a ‘girl band’”

‘So When You Gonna…’ is not all heavy garage-punk, though. Though the album is made up of shorter, punchy tracks, it is filled, too, with more emotional, quieter heartfelt moments too, which switches from riot grrrl band to indie anthems. The emotional crux of the album occurs on ‘Temporary’, a song about miscarriage: “If the heartbeat fails / Know I’m here / With a full embrace / How is it to love and live temporary?” It’s refreshing to see a topic usually so surrounded in shame sung about so openly, the band not shying away from describing the pain miscarriage causes, but also uplifting the womxn who have experienced it. “With every loss, how do you carry through? / Know you’re brave to jump back into / I’ll applaud it”.

On ‘After The Rain’ they address abortion, another taboo and difficult topic. As stories of reproductive justice and abortion rights dominate headlines, Mjöll lay herself bare, revealing “I’m feeling very honest today” on the first line of the song. Following in a similar  vein to that of the band’s 2017 song ‘Somebody’, which explored sexual assault, the music slowly crescendos as Mjöll cries out: “It’s my choice, my life / iI’s my body, my right”.

The band are the queens of vocal asides, a fact no more apparent than on the title track, which sees spoken-word missive overlap with electrifying screamed vocals. “Pull me closer” Mjöll sings before the whispered response: “just a little bit.” Here they’re telling womxn to speak up for what they want, to be unashamed, direct and fully communicate their desires. She repeats the lyric “so when you gonna kiss me?” over and over, until at the end, we get a classic Mjöll vocal aside in the punchline: “Too bad they were a bad kisser.”

So ‘When You Gonna..’ is also a call out to a disenfranchised generation. Dream Wife challenge the next generation of singers, producers, mixers, writers, guitarists, filmmakers and more to just do it. “You do you / Don’t waste your time with fools who don’t value you”. At its core, the album is about stopping waiting and starting doing, with a ‘now or never’ attitude. On ‘RH RN’ – a shortened version of the phrase ‘right here, right now’ – the band repeat “We are the youngest we will ever be / We are the oldest we have ever been / Right here right now”. It’s a call to live in the present, an invitation to stop waiting for perfection and to use your talents as best you can.

With a mixture of classic punk and dance-pop, Dream Wife also hark back to the early New York sound of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with a heavy dollop of riot grrrl attitude. The band have extended the ‘girls to the front’ ethos into every part of themselves, from production to music to live performances. With so much honesty packed into the 11 tracks, the album is an invitation and a challenge to go after what you want – without apologising for it.


Release date: July 3

Record label: Lucky Number