Alt-J new song 3WW review: A shamanic and deeply sexual song

The type of beat to suck you out of a mundane Monday

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I’m continually amazed by the fact that a group of guys with names like Gus Unger-Hamilton and Gwil Sainsbury* manage to make legitimately sexy music.

Their songs seem to get more Dionysian with each record, and ‘3WW’, the first single from their upcoming new album Relaxer (out 9 June), is their most sensual yet.

Things listening to ‘3WW’ feels like:

Emerging over a sand dune on a camel in the Arabian Desert, the heat shimmering above the sand

The camera slowly closing in on an ancient artifact through parting vines in an adventure movie

Seeing a new animal for the first time

Being in a cafe you can’t navigate due to hookah smoke and your own intoxication

The track starts with a volley of guitar hammer-ons before quickly settling into a woozy, deeply meditative beat, the kind you could ride on for bars and bars (and they do, it’s a 5-minute track).

After the initial section, a sort of ritual offering, Unger-Hamilton’s vocals arrive, hollowed out so as to give the impression they’re being delivered as a prayer from the corner of an adobe hut.

It’s all very Yeasayer territory, that is until Joe Newman's chorus line “Oh, these three worn words” arrives and it briefly gets a little REO Speedwagon, in an unexpectedly major turn.

Lyrically, the song discusses a sexual encounter under the stars in a midnight country field (“Well, that smell of sex / Good like burning wood”) and touches on the unwittingly destructive nature of love, eluding to the statue of Juliet in Verona, which has been rubbed for good luck in love by so many tourists it has become worn.


“I just want to love you in my own language” the chorus concludes - a classic bit of Alt-J a cappella and a defeated, abortive plea.

'3WW’s dreaminess is capped off with a dose of reality, as an incongruent, distorted guitar slowly fuzzes in and Wolf Alice’s Ellie Roswell offers a sort of riposte to the narrator’s memory of the night.

“Love is just a button we pressed last night by the campfire” she douses, positing, I think, that we have a tendency to over-romanticise such nights and overstate their importance to our relationships.

*Sainsbury left the band amicably in 2014