The idea of Dream Wife is extremely difficult to fault. Originally conceived as a conceptual art piece back in 2014, the chemistry between Fine Art students Rakel Mjöll, Alice Go and Bella Podpadec proved so undeniable that the project soon blossomed into a fully-fledged band. In the intervening years the Brighton-formed three-piece has firmly established themselves as a force for good, practising what they preach in terms of intersectional feminism, be that highlighting harassment at gigs with ‘Girls Against’, empowering fans through their ‘Bad Bitches’ initiative, or working on industry representation by specifically recruiting female-identifying or non-binary support acts. In short, they’re good people, and they deserve to do well.
Doing well definitely wasn’t a problem initially: 2018’s self-titled record was a hugely likeable debut, packed with sharp commentary and undeniable hooks, most notably on ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ which fused girl gang harmonies and handclaps with Helium-worthy guitar fuzz. Their live shows and self-directed videos were great, they were perceptive and engaging interviewees, and they backed up their creative vision with an impeccable set of influences extending from Madonna and Debbie Harry to Le Tigre and Grimes. Basically, if you were to design your ideal band, it probably wouldn’t look too dissimilar to the reality of Dream Wife.
Two years on, the trio are as principled a prospect as they ever were and have even assembled an entirely non-male supporting cast to work on this second album; especially impressive when you consider that the gender divide in music production is still weighted 95% in favour of men. As a lyricist, Mjöll remains committed to empowering womxn, holding forth frankly on subjects like self-esteem (‘Validation’), miscarriage (‘Temporary’) and reproductive autonomy (‘After The Rain’). Hell, just imagining an audience singing back the latter’s “It’s my womb, my sacrifice / It’s my body, my right” refrain is enough to raise morale on the very darkest of days.
But while on paper, ‘So When You Gonna…’ should be a total home run, the songwriting sometimes falls short of expectations, most notably on lead single ‘Sports!’, which sounds like an unsuccessful attempt to replicate the formula of ‘Hey Heartbreaker’, and features an extended metaphor so laboured it’s wince-worthy at points. On the flipside, the title track is utterly ferocious and ‘RH RN’ boasts a chorus so anthemic it betrays the band’s stadium-sized ambitions. So while not a totally fault-free showing, ‘So When You Gonna…’ does little to dispel the idea that Dream Wife have it in them to achieve the breakout success they so clearly deserve.