By Erin Christie
I remember seeing famed British alt-rock group Wolf Alice for the first time at a local CT gig, where I, a barely 16-year-old young’n, waited outside to meet up with a random man off Facebook who sold me his left-over ticket. At the show, I bopped around by myself, totally intimidated by the cool girls, decked out with gold glitter under their eyes and big platform boots, who were in attendance. I remember visiting the storied Allston dive bar, Great Scott, for the first time and meeting a long-time friend while pressed up against the stage, staring up at Ellie Rowsell with stars in my eyes. I remember impulse-buying the My Love Is Cool Deluxe Box Set in the backseat of my mom’s car as she drove me to my driver’s license road exam (note: I failed the test that day, and another time after that).
The amount of cherished memories I have associated with Wolf Alice could fill a novel, and subsequently, the amount of nerves I’ve felt waiting for new music from them, and the chance to make new memories, have been nearly soul-crushing. So, when the group began posting haunting black and white visuals to their socials recently, teasing a brand new single (their first in nearly three years) called “The Last Man On Earth,” I breathed a sigh of relief, and simultaneously felt my body tense up in anticipation. After a long wait, that single is finally here today, and it comes alongside the announcement of the group’s forthcoming third record, Blue Weekend (due for release on June 11 via Dirty Hit/RCA Records).
As described in a press release, the long-awaited album — which serves as the follow-up to their Mercury Prize-winning release, Visions Of A Life (2017) — is said to find the band balancing between their signature inclinations and more classical songwriting, placing them in a purgatory-like state where their past clashes with the present. "The Last Man on Earth” welcomes this struggle as it meshes and matures the sonic influences of their two previous releases but takes them up a notch, practically begging listeners to welcome their return.
From the gate, the track features ethereal moments of bliss amidst its atmospheric and pointed lyrical imagery. It begins with stripped-back instrumentation composed of somber, isolated keys that serve as the backdrop for Ellie’s vocals to shine (drawing comparison to former tracks from the group such as "Blush" and "After the Zero Hour"). In these early moments, she practically whispers but remains stern in her delivery, while a choir (composed of both Ellie and Joel’s vocals) meets her to create an utterly cinematic sequence that can honestly bring a tear to the eye. Later, controlled chaos ensues as a cacophony of drums join the ensemble, serving as an emblem of the track's sharp-as-ever lyrical material in which Ellie makes observations about a person who seems to think that the sun rises and sets with them, as if they're practically a godsend. While it’s divine in essence, it’s blunt and brutal all the same.
The track's accompanying visual — directed by Jordan Hemingway — displays the subject’s sense of superiority as it finds Ellie embodying the song's namesake, singled out as she stares directly into the camera, her face occasionally distorted by kaleidoscopic close-ups. "You're the first person here, and the last man on the Earth, but does a light shine on you?," she questions, head cocked to the side as she herself is drenched in a heavenly glow.
As Ellie elaborates on the song's subject matter via press release, "It’s about the arrogance of humans. I’d just read Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and I had written the line 'Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from god' in my notes. But then I thought: 'Uh, your peculiar travel suggestion isn’t a dancing lesson from god, it’s just a travel suggestion! Why does everything need to mean something more?'"
Further on, as the bass kicks in, the frame zooms out as Ellie stares toward the heavens. Her vocals extend and she belts accusatory lines as the scenery around her is consumed by flames, but she appears unfazed. It’s as if she, the last man on earth, was already aware that utter ruin would be the consequence of a life drenched in lies and self-service. Everything fades to black as the fire rages on.
With such a powerful introduction, it’s telling that Blue Weekend is sure to throttle my heart, as well as the hearts of many. This debut track feels like a message from god, in a way, or like a reunion with a long lost friend. It evokes a sense of sheer emotion that’s all-encompassing and overwhelming, in a way that makes everything feel whole again. I can’t get over how glad I am to have my favorite band back.
Make sure to keep up to date with Wolf Alice (via their socials, below) and stay tuned for Blue Weekend, due June 11.