Dream Wife describe their third LP, Social Lubrication, as “hyper lusty rock and roll with a political punch, exploring the alchemy of attraction, the lust for life”. Entirely self-produced and composed, its a proposition that yields varying results.
Lyrically, the album tackles outmoded gender norms and power structure in the music industry and beyond, sex positivity and relationships, all delivered via frontwoman Rakel Mjöll’s singular vocal stylings, flitting from growls to syrupy sweet croons at will. Instrumentally, the band lean on dance-punk rhythms and poppy hooks, hitting the ground running in the spirit of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Peaches on the one-two punch of ‘Kick In The Teeth’ and lead single ‘Who Do You Wanna Be?’.
The band are at their best when they’re seething, or going full throttle. Take the straight-up rocker ‘Hot (Don’t Date A Musician)’, or album highlight ‘Leech’, which sees Mjöll build unpalpable tension with the repeated refrain of “just have some fucking empathy” before leading into a screaming chorus. Elsewhere, ‘Curious’ sees the band venture into indie landfill territory but is so cloyingly cute and confident that it’s irresistible (“She loves you but she’s curious about her love for me”).
Not content to pigeonhole themselves, the band branch out sonically on tracks ‘Mascara’ and ‘Honestly’ to varying results – the former playing on Pixies soft/loud dynamics and Nirvana-esque guitar flanging with a hook that unfortunately insists upon itself, the latter a cool, sultry, reverb-soaked seduction over four minutes and nineteen seconds that shows a maturity that is all but missing from the remainder of the album.
All things considered, Social Lubrication is a solid album – rousing, uplifting, with a healthy dose of sensitivity and desire. It’s far from inventive, and at times a bit juvenile and reductive but no less than some of their cishet male counterparts, and offers a much needed and not oft-enough heard perspective and voice to a genre that greatly needs it.