Album Review: Pale Waves - Who Am I?

Some people treat music like it's very black & white. Either it's the greatest thing ever, or just no good. The truth, as per usual, is that the vast majority of music is just fine. Truly special music is rare, but then so is truly awful music. Quality will vary, absolutely, but most music will be found somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Law of averages and all that.

Pale Waves' second effort, Who Am I?, is pretty much dead centre. There is absolutely nothing on this record you won't have heard before, certainly not musically, with the band emulating early-2000s pop-rock stars such as Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson almost to an exact tee. It's got the ballads, it's got the bouncy, fast-paced guitar tunes, it's got the anthemic vocal lines...this album's music is about as formulaic as it gets. A set of indie-pop-rock tunes for the masses.

And that's okay. There is literally nothing wrong with that. At 33 minutes, the album is refreshingly short which means it ends whilst it's still entertaining. Moreover, though it isn't exactly original, it's a formula that's worked for decades and it continues to do so here. It's a very pleasant listen all the way through, with no real peaks and troughs in quality, instead maintaining a consistent level throughout.

Its big appeal is the lyrical content. The album explores themes such as sexuality and mental health and doesn't do it in a cryptic way either. 'Tomorrow', for example, is one of the most straightforward songs I've ever heard, with lines such as "Sexuality isn't a choice/Don't let anyone say it's wrong" making it absolutely crystal clear what the band's message is. That particular song is rife with positive messages, regarding everything from sexuality to body positivity ("Haley, I know the magazines say to be skinny/You're one of a kind just trust me, trust me/Don't listen to society") and suicidal thoughts ("Won't you stay alive/Give it one more try"). Sometimes you can't afford to be cryptic; just say what you're thinking. Again, it's similar story throughout the album, but it is a timely one.

This means the album should appeal strongly to those who can relate to it, whether it be those suffering with their mental health or members of the LGBTQ+ community who need a reassuring song or two every now and again. They won't find originality but they may find some comfort in a band are willing to be open and show that they know what it's like. They have heart, something which doesn't go amiss these days.

Who Am I?, musically, is fine. It's an indie-pop-rock album which, in many ways, belongs in 2004. Its modern appeal is in its lyrics, which throw an arm around the shoulders of those who are struggling with personal problems. If you're the type of person to use language such as "SJWs", "woke" and the like, I'd recommend giving this album a miss. For the rest of us, it's a light, easy listen with some brilliant and relatable lyrics. Enough said.