Words by Tom Farmer
The year is 2004, in an era dominated by the pop-rock mafiosos like Avril Lavigne and Jimmy Eat World. Tony Hawk: Pro Skater is on the play station. Indie chic is on the covers of the magazines. Guitar music was omnipresent on the TV. Life was good.
Despite Heather Baron-Gracie and co. still being under 10 at this hay day of indie rock, the four-piece have effectively captured the vibe and style which was ubiquitous in the early 2000s, creating an infectious and vivacious album harking back to the good old Nokia3310 days.
Founded in Manchester in 2014, originally called “Creek” before a re-brand inspired by the name of a painting by Baron-Gracie’s grandmother, it wasn’t long before the outfit caught the attention of music heavyweights such as John Kennedy. Signing with Dirty Hit in 2017, the label home to Gen Z icons like Beabadoobee and the 1975, the band had a top 10 album at the first time of asking. “The Hard Way” is Pale Waves’ second full-length offering in just over a year, cementing the band’s focus on pop-rock fit for any decent indie club.
Some tracks are certainly more pop than rock, such as “Clean” which is complete for mainstream radio with anthemic hooks and plenty of “na, na, na”. “Without You”, too, has an air of Camp Rock. This isn’t at all a bad thing, certainly making the album something of a guilty pleasure, as well as being inevitably destined for decent exposure on TikTok.
Photo: Katia Temkin
Yet, other tracks maintain a pure rock flair. Album opener “Lies” is a vivacious rock track, fit with thumping drums and a beautiful cacophony of distorted guitar. “You’re So Vain” has the opening of a Royal Blood track, ensuring that the indie side of the fan base are satisfied.
I always feel that calling something a “guilty pleasure” is something of a back-handed compliment. After all, why should you feel guilty about something that gives you pleasure?!? Although it’s not something which would typically pop up on my Spotify queue, there’s something inherently fun and liberating about “The Hard Way”.
'The Hard Way' is released tomorrow, Friday the 12th of August via Dirty Hit.