Sometimes there is such a noise around a band, a sheer hysteria of hype, that it threatens to drown out the music itself. So has been the case recently with Manchester’s Pale Waves in the lead-up to their debut album My Mind Makes Noises. As the title suggests, this is a record that deals with problems of the mind just as much as it does the heart and, as such, it is destined to be the bedroom soundtrack to an entire generation’s turmoils and travails.
It sets off at a gallop with the opening tracks: three massive pop bangers that sound like they’ve been around forever. The glossy 80s-style production of ‘Eighteen’ is a perfect match for the lovestruck lyrics, while early single ‘There’s A Honey’ was the first clue that, for all the comparisons with bands like The Cure due to their aesthetics, it was Taylor Swift’s pop crown that was on their mind. More so than their label-mates The 1975 (who they are about to tour with in the new year), in reality much of My Mind Makes Noises could easily settle into Taylor’s 1989-period, a record that is now looking more and more like a generation-defining pop sound.
It’s easy for some to look down their nose and sneer at bands who have been hyped like this. In truth, they do largely stick to a set formula within each song structure, and yes, some towards the middle section of the record are interchangeable and could have been left for another time. Though that is, in some ways, missing the point. On their debut album no less, Pale Waves have created their own world and delivered what is potentially the biggest, and best, pop album for several years. Their way around a melody and their ability to deliver a ridiculously catchy chorus is pretty much peerless here. It is surging, sugary pop of the very highest order.
What sets them apart, though, is their willingness to show their fragility, to be open about their battles with self-esteem. Tracks like ‘Noises’ and ‘Drive’, for all their poppy buzz, give a voice to those trapped in emotional turmoil. “Why do I stare so much at my body? I’m falling, I’m crawling on the floor at night” sings Heather Baron-Gracie on the former, and: “I drive so fast so I can feel something” on the latter.
These are songs to be clutched to the heart during long, dark nights of doubt. On traumatic closing track ‘Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like To Die)’, they deliver a moment of such beauty that it will take a hard soul not to shed a tear or two. This record is the noise of fully-formed pop genius arriving to take their throne.