Key Tracks: “Big TV,” “There Goes Our Love Again”
There’s something inherently interesting about White Lies. On paper, they’re doing nothing original, but their albums are entrancing. There are plenty of bands today doing 80’s throwbacks – the Killers, Muse and Editors jump to mind. But White Lies can add enough depth to their songs to make them their own, and not just rehashed ballads that wouldn’t please Ian Curtis at all. Their third album sees little in the way of ambition, similar to 2010’s “Ritual.” And with an overabundance of ballads, it shouldn’t be an enjoyable record at all. But leave it to White Lies to be able to entice the listener to keep the album on for unexplainable reasons.
The beauty of White Lies’ simplicity is how they don’t simply rebrand 80’s alt-ballads. Every song on this album is synth-driven, to the point where it acts as a running narrative. But they also take the counter-counter-culture 80’s gloom, a la Depeche Mode and non-hair metal bands. The album exists as a blending of two 80’s sounds, many years too late. Still more, they often add guitar crunch and painfully reflecting lyrics to kick it into today’s world. For music that sounds easy and repetitive, there are always a few things going on.
“Death” is easily the most ambitious song from the band. Sadly, it is the first track on their first album. With each album, they’ve relied more and more on this formula. While it still proves successful, the band is starting to drag. There are too many slow songs here. They’re broken up nicely by a few up-tempo songs, and two short instrumental interludes, a first for the band. But the album can’t help but feel a little bloated. While still entirely listenable, it begs the question of how long the band will be able to keep this going without getting too boring. Or too spacey. The album sounds more spacey, like Muse at their peak, before they too got too bloated and boring.
Still, the album is an intriguing listen, because White Lies are one of the few bands today that can pull off an album like “Big TV” and get away with it. It’s inexplicably enjoyable, though very faulted. The ballads come too early and too often, and many are forgettable on their own. As an album, though, each song works, and it results in a nice, somewhat easy listen.
If you like this, try: “Given to the Wild” by the Maccabees (2012), another album of largely down-tempo songs that’s still totally enjoyable.
-By Andrew McNally