White Lies have never been ones for smiling. They’ve never been ones for cheeriness and warming melodies either. You could say they’re a bit of a bore, really, except who’d be having to over-look some of the best gothic infused punk revival rock released this side of 2000. The expert construction of icy synths and sinister samples, all topped off with a heavy bass and a clattering drum production, their “formula”, if you like, was one that worked wonders and delivered the goods almost every time.
Their first album was, as with many modern rock albums, criticised by critics but adored by fans, and completely torn apart by Pitchfork Media. None-the-less, it was a brilliant rebirth for the band after their failed career as Fear of Flying, their previous performing name.
But it’s worth bringing to our attention how hard it can often be when bridging the second album gap. Many hurdles are more than willing to trip up artists as they opt to continue with the sound they established on their début or take a different approach to their music. The former option is one that White Lies appear to have chosen, and not only that, but just by the second single, ‘Strangers’, you can tell they pretty much fell at the first hurdle.
This hurdle would the one labelled “no progression”. I’m all for artists continuing with their sound and playing to their known strengths – there’s nothing quite as disappointing as hearing your favourite artist(s) change to a sound as derivative as a Playskool children’s keyboard, *cough, cough The Black Eyed Peas, cough*. But it seems that White Lies didn’t even try with their last record – a lot of it just feels like ground re-trodden, and this time, with less appeal than before; the formula they stuck to so religiously with their début record has turned sour.
And it shows on not only lead single ‘Bigger Than Us’, a song that couldn’t help but slip into the “dreary” bin and one that was ultimately shrugged off as a weak mis-step. ‘Strangers’ however, only reinforces that the formula White Lies have been peddling is beginning to show signs of unoriginality and musical subordination.
The song starts promisingly, with an electronic synth riff and growling guitar backing, complemented by Harry’s gothic baritone for all of one second. Something about the verses just switch off the listener, whether it’s the lackadaisical instrumentation or Harry’s dominating drone. The bridge feels shoe-horned in, with all the subtlety of that corner-piece of your white work shirt protruding from the zip of your black trousers in an important board meeting.
The chorus takes forever to make itself noticed, finally popping up at 2:35 and it, at least, provides a little reminder of how brilliant White Lies can be but, when sandwiched between a quite frankly, boring construction of synths, guitars and drums, a bridge that doesn’t fit right nor flow properly, and an incessant bellow from Harry, doesn’t engage the listeners and certainly doesn’t impose a “sense of urgency” with it’s relatively pedestrian tempo.
Here’s the video: Not the official one because I can’t access that one. Thanks to YouTube for being pointless and trying to link everyone’s Google accounts and basically kicking me out of my of my own account because my Google account is apparently linked to a YouTube account already; I can’t even remember setting up a Google account. Hmm…
‘Strangers’ cements to casual listeners that maybe, just maybe, White Lies need to return to their more punk-infused sound, with jagged guitar hooks, pulsating bass and racing melodies that threw up imagery of towering monoliths, glistening glaciers and raging thunderstorms rather than a on-and-off ‘Strangers’.
Rating: 2.5 STARS
Download: March 20, 2011 (OUT NOW)
Featured Album: ‘Ritual’