I, like many others, thought Alvvays were over. Without a release since 2017’s dazzling gem of a sophomore album Antisocialites, it seemed as though the Toronto-based indie rockers had thrown in the towel.
Well, my mourning is finally over. Front-woman Molly Rankin and co. are making a triumphant comeback, armed with a wardrobe seemingly stolen from a Wes Anderson film set, a back catalogue of bitter-sweet dreampop perfection, and a fuzzy batch of soon-to-be indie disco classics from the upcoming album, Blue Rev.
Six-hundred punters gather in Gorilla, awaiting a return half a decade in the making. Such a wait would feel like forever if not for the wonderfully earnest support set from singer-songwriter Lande Hekt. Marrying the jangly angst of The Wedding Present with charmingly curious lyrics about her pet cat Lola, Hekt somehow manages to make the overpriced cans of Red Stripe slightly less sour – and that is no small feat.
Then, bathed in blue light and greeted by an intoxicating wave of anticipation, Alvvays begin their set with July’s surprise single ‘Pharmacist’ – an effervescent wail of melodic bass, scratchy guitars and sugary synth that would fit in just fine on a mid 80s New Order record. It is a bold opening statement: confirmation of a group breaking away from their past work, whilst still managing to keep their trademark wide-eyed sincerity intact.
Lyrically, Rankin continues to find drama in the mundane, exemplified aptly by a painful reminder of a past love… found in a local pharmacy of all places. Drawing on the poetic longings of Morrissey and the tongue-in-cheek coyness of fellow Smiths-enthusiast Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays, Rankin invites her audience into a humdrum world of long bike rides, infuriating online dating attempts and bedsit scheming.
It comes as no surprise that the band feels right at home in rain-soaked Manchester. “Anyway, here’s another Smiths rip off”, mumbles guitarist Alec O’Hanley as he launches into the sparkly, spine-tingling arpeggio of ‘Not My Baby’. Whilst Alvvays’ sound is certainly full of loving homages to the intricate string-picking of Johnny Marr, this off-hand comment is delivered with extreme humbleness.
Rest assured, Alvvays’ music is far stronger, far subtler, and far more individual than your average Smiths-lite indie rock band. Their stage presence is awkwardly charming, their song writing tendencies are rewardingly varied and their live sound is one of head-spinning propulsion. The audience dances along to the frenzied vigour of ‘Adult Diversion’, becomes irretrievably lost in the melancholy escapism of ‘Dreams Tonite’ and grimaces along with a distraught-looking Rankin as she recalled the thwarted passions of teenage house parties in ‘Party Police’. Her voice glitters and glides – underpinned by Kerri MacLellan’s keyboard wanderings – and sounds every bit as beautiful as it does on record. So, it looks like Alvvays are back for good. Thank God for that.
Blue Rev, the new album from Alvvays, came out on October 7, and you can listen to it here.