Label: Wolf Tone
Release Date: 7th August 2020
“Wavey Davey doesn't know what the fuck he's doing sometimes.”
Back in February, when nobody had heard of the word Coronavirus, I bumped into Drew from Glass Animals on a train to London. We exchanged pleasantries, and I asked if they had a new album coming out soon. "Don't tell anyone, but yes", he said. Six months and a global health crisis later, Dreamland is out and for the world to hear. It's an experience album, a delicately crafted one, digging up old memories and as frontman Dave Bayley says, "finding comfort in [those memories] even if they were uncomfortable in themselves".
The result is simply beautiful. The title track feels like falling into a mirage as Bayley sings "Pulling down backstreets deep in your head / Slippin thru dreamland like a tourist", setting out his roadmap for the record, giving away a slice of what's to come. 'Tangerine' is a slick electro-pop tune which sets the tone of Glass Animals' new sound; drum machine, heavy bass and most importantly, a homage to a new type of fruit. 'Hot Sugar' does much of the same. A sample of Little Ann's 'Deep Shadows' runs throughout, which some may also recognise from Loyle Carner's 'You Don't Know'.
Dreamland has four '((home movie))' interludes, interspersed between the more colourful and dense songs. Each interlude pertains to a different aspect of Bayley's childhood in Texas, usually with a snippet of him talking to his mother as a little boy, adding much-needed breathing space to the record. 'Space Ghost Coast to Coast' recounts some of these childhood memories in a very different light; when a close childhood friend attempts to bring a gun into a local school.
The near-death of drummer Joe Seaward in an accident with a lorry is what gave Bayley the impetus to call upon these memories, to create Dreamland. The drum machine which defines so much of this record takes on a more macabre meaning after Joe's accident. It's clear that the further into Dreamland we fall, the heavier the themes become.
"We're all getting ready to start touring again soon", Drew told me in February. Glass Animals were playing some warm-up shows for this new album campaign when COVID-19 hit Europe and the United States, and their whole touring schedule went out the window. Despite the fact there are no gigs for the foreseeable, 'Tokyo Drifting' offers a glimpse into what the main stages of festivals this summer could have sounded like, the blasting horns giving way to the frontman's alter ego, Wavey Davey, who I hear is apparently on fire?
'It's All So Incredibly Loud' is a blatant nod to the sonics that made the band -- the track wouldn't sound out of place on the quartet's debut, ZABA, as Ed Irwin-Singer's bass and Joe Seaward's drums reflect the rhythms of 'Pools'. 'Domestic Bliss' brings another heavy topic to the forefront, as Bayley examines domestic abuse with incredibly frank lyrics. "I see the bruise, I see the truth / I see what he's been doin to you" cannot be misinterpreted.
I think it's the tender moments on this record that stick with me more. Anyone can make a lavish banger, like 'Gooey' or 'Pork Soda', but what Glass Animals do to their advantage is marry that dancing-round-your-bedroom-in-your-pants feeling with hard hitting themes. Dreamland lacks a certain centrepiece track, but compensates here when you view the body of work itself as a centrepiece.
The Oxford band's second record, How To Be A Human Being was born from the idea of each track representing a different character in Bayley's psyche — not dissimilar from a Kafka novel or a Nolan film. This time around, it feels like Dreamland is focusing in on the band themselves. The closing track, 'Helium', is about Bayley's struggles with sexuality, proving that even Wavey Davey doesn't know what the fuck he's doing sometimes. As the track gently shimmers into the melody of the opener, it's clear that we are just tourists in Dave's dreamland.
Words by Jacob Simpson.
7th August 2020.