Words and Header Image by Billy Edwards
Dream Wife’s performance in Clwb Ifor Bach was electric; they zipped around like lazer beams, as bright as the jagged neon sign of their logo behind them. In little over an hour on a blustery Monday evening, the trio tore through the highlights of their two records – 2018’s Dream Wife and So When You Gonna…, which followed two years later – plus a smattering of new concoctions. New song ‘Hot’, a winning takedown of contemporary beauty standards for women, was warmly received as a return to the edgier sound found on their debut. Joking about the “great timing” to release their second album in July 2020, this was a band thoroughly ecstatic to be back in the moment of performing live to their fans: “I love being in a rock band”, lead singer Rakel Mjöll asserted, to the audience as much as to herself. One highlight was where Rakel unveiled a prop gun with fake cash notes packed inside – which fell rather limply to the floor when ejected: “Bit of a let-down, eBay ”, she lamented.
Move over Johnny Rotten – this was a piercing punky glare with a proud grin just as intense as their music. Notably on cheery opener ‘Hey Heartbreaker’, she roars over the distorted guitar cacophony, even sometimes breaking into a room-filling scream.
“Bad b*tches to the front!” she implored before a kind of rock ‘n’ roll sermon in which she implored bad b*tches was not a term constrained by the boundaries of gender – in fact, all there was to it was looking out for one another. There was a lovely community feel amongst the varied audience, resisting to fit neatly into a single demographic. Elderly punks jostled with teenagers and every kind of loud music fan in between was present and jumping in their spot, all together inebriated in a moderately compact venue.
Before the show began, I had pondered on how their three-instrument format implied a souped-up rhythm section – think The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Nirvana, The Who – and this was delivered in spades. Their pin-sharp ability and charisma gave them total command of their audience – they certainly didn’t need another guitarist. Alice Go played energised, spiky notes with a wall-smashing tone, with a big smile the moment she stepped onto stage until she left it. Parts of her guitar were wrapped in tinfoil and painted with luminous paint. It rather suited as her guitar-playing was fluorescent – especially during ‘F. U. U.’, nearing the conclusion of the show, which benefited from an impressively elaborate guitar workout for an intro. ‘Hasta La Vista’ was a welcome breather from an avalanche of punk, as it depicted Dream Wife’s strong pop chops in a rather sweet love song about saying goodbye: “How many ways to say goodbye / to wash away all the strokes of our past life”…
‘Somebody’ was a crucial moment in the evening, as it illustrated Dream Wife’s direct motivation for their music beyond just being fun rock ‘n’ roll music: their performances, both in studio and live, are a winning celebration of femininity and female empowerment. This is reiterated in the simple yet lasting chorus: “I am not my body, I am somebody”, accompanied by prickly guitar and steadily bumping bass notes from Bella Podpadec; a funky player and the glue of the group, her notes like a morse code transmission out to the women who love them and those yet to discover them. The lift of a few lines from ‘Wannabe’ by The Spice Girls within the furious ‘F.U.U.’ was an excellent communication of their very own kind of “Girl Power”, we all present could all happily get behind.
Dream Wife forged for their audience a thoroughly entertaining evening with a tangible party spirit. With prominent political motivations – paired with an emphasis on fun – in a way that hasn’t been put to tape so innovatively since punk’s late-70s inception, their clear fearlessness precisely certified them as a band with immense stage power and command of their audience; mesmerised, inspired and jumping. Their wall of stirring sound is a joy to witness.