English band Pale Waves released their third studio album, Unwanted, on August 12, 2022, a collection of classic angst and intense ballads. The band, consisting of Heather Baron-Gracie (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Clara Doran (drums, keyboard, synth), Hugo Silvani (guitar, keyboard), and Charlie Wood (bass guitar, keyboard) has been making music since 2014, and this new album, released under Dirty Hit, proves they’re only getting better. The album reveals very personal and inner thoughts of chief songwriter, Baron-Gracie, who stated, “the album dives into feelings that I felt not only needed to be written but I felt like our fans want to hear. Almost everyone has felt like they don’t belong or has been made to feel like they’re not good enough. That’s a consistent theme that I’m seeing from our fans – that their family doesn’t approve of them, or their friends have disowned them because they’ve come out. So ‘Unwanted’ had to be honest, provocative and loud. Not only thematically, but in the music as well.”
The album starts out with “Lies”, immediately setting the hard pop-punk vibe that’s reminiscent of the genre’s first rise in the 2000s. These sounds remain for the majority of the album, like in one of the highlights, “The Hard Way”, which not only showcases Baron-Gracie’s incredible voice, but the band’s strong lyrics on a song that’s all about not feeling good enough. “Pretending everything’s okay/ I should’ve taken on your weight/ Then I wouldn’t have to learn the hard way.”
A lot of the album centers around feelings of angst, coming-of-age anxiety, and, of course, being unwanted. In “Alone”, Pale Waves delivers a killer song equipped with hardcore guitar notes to a ballad that expresses Baron-Gracie’s want to just be left alone. “Wish I could go back to the night when I met you/ So I could tell you to go to hell/ I’d rather spend my entire lifetime alone.” These themes continue to ring in songs like “Only Problem”, a fantastic track to scream along to, and “Reasons To Live”.
“You’re So Vain”, the ninth track on the album of thirteen songs, transports the listener back to the Riot Grrrl movement, with its intense words rooted more in rock than in punk, and a message to the narcissists all around the world that not everything revolves around them. In “Act My Age” we see the struggle into coming into your own and trying to grasp your own growing up, especially in parts like “I can feel these easy days slip away as/ Memories fade, nothing’s the same/ Guess I’d better act my age.”
Unwanted ends with “So Sick (Of Missing You)”, another pop-punk song filled with 2000s-esque vibes and hard-hitting riffs. The album might not be extremely varied, but that’s the beauty of it: It’s a cohesive record filled with songs centered around the best themes of teenage pop-punk all wrapped up in black wrapping paper and heavy eyeliner.