Dave – We’re All Alone In This Together review
Music’s Print Editor Harry Hawkins reviews Dave’s We’re All Alone In This Together
Sophomore record from the young UK rapper makes it known (if it wasn’t already from 2019’s Psychodrama) that he is one of the most breath-taking voices in British music full stop.
After bona fide hit songs like Funky Friday, a fully-formed debut album in Psychodrama, and a hair-raising (and for some bigots, anger-inducing) BRITs performance, Dave was already in prime position as one of the UK’s premier talents, with his ability to compose a album displayed on Psychodrama’s compelling centrepiece, the 11 minute “Lesley”, as well as the album’s through line of dialogue between Dave and his therapist.
the album feels larger, more global and more open
However, a debut is still a debut – whilst his previous releases have shown him consistently on his A-game in all aspects, We’re All Alone In This Together (I shall keep to the shorter but rather unappealing acronym WAAITT) shows that Dave’s ambitions haven’t got much, if any, limits – and he certainly proves himself across this album, which builds and expands the premises set out in all his music.
The defining changeup between Psychodrama and WAAITT is a broadening of addresses made – the album feels larger, more global and more open. It’s made clear on numerous tracks that Dave wants to speak to the struggles of as many people as possible, if not all of us – on opening track ‘We’re All Alone‘, Dave sets out clearly that “we all took the wrong turns in different streets, we all cry the same tears on different cheeks”. He is wise enough to not dilute the message to millions, however – the same track discusses discussion with a fan online who is contemplating suicide and the isolating interaction which appears to quell the pain. And these lines are backed with a haunting piano descent – piano motifs feel even more present than before on WAAITT with follow-up tracks ‘Verdansk‘ and ‘Clash’ creating eerie bangers out of skeletons of piano riffs – there are few typical hooks or melodies, but Dave and Stormzy’s sure-fire, restless bars keep the track propelled. And yes, there is brag and materialism, but it should be set in context. Both Dave and Stormzy have put to track their struggles, advocacies and outrage at inequity and prejudice in Britain – to do all the above and make a successful and profitable career out of it speaks volumes not only to their individual success but the faith that many others have in them.
Speaking of multitudes, ‘In the Fire‘ is one of the most inspiring tracks this year, with its rotation of verses from grime talents old (Giggs, Ghetts) and new (Meekz Manny, Fredo) spitting powerfully over a soulful 2-step beat that would make both Kanye and Burial blush. It evolves too, switching to a trickling pace for Ghetts’ evocative bars and Giggs’ resonant lines before leading us to Dave for a verse that, while confident, displays vulnerability and the struggle behind such an image. ‘In The Fire’ is about all of the moments, difficulties and joys that lead up to it – in some ways one could even consider Dave’s placement of himself behind numerous other talents as a kind of “trial by fire” to show his place in the annals of UK rap and grime.
Dave is not just content to settle into his home turf, however. Listen to the last minute of ‘In The Fire‘ and you will hear a short dialogue from one of Dave’s collaborators where he encourages travel so that you can find “where you come from, where you’re going”. Like many of his contemporaries, Dave is keen to interact and delve into his heritage as not just a Londoner but a global citizen – taking features with Nigerian artists WizKid and BOJ (whose hooky lines are delivered in Yorùbá), and Swedish star Snoh Allegra to create a 3-track run of more tropical-tinged, celebratory tunes discussing past relationships and partying again – a much needed respite from heavy tracks such as ‘Heart Attack‘ and ‘Three Rivers‘ that surround them and make sure the strong message of the album is not diluted.
Throughout the album Dave is not just in his element but also in a better place materially and mentally – which, for an artist of his integrity means a better place for his family and community. This doesn’t mean that the struggles go away, but it’s a relief to see an example of great art that avoids fetishing the “tortured artist” trope that some may have came away with after hearing Psychodrama – and it’s even better to see such important and timely messages reach number 1 on British album charts.
Favourite Tracks: We’re All Alone, Heart Attack, In The Fire
Least Favourite Track: Twenty to One