Monday, June 27, 2011

White Lies: Ritual

     Sophomore albums are famously difficult to pull off. White Lie's second album, 'Ritual' has unfortunately fallen into this wet, soggy ditch, having tumbled from the mound of praise built up by the first record. The band are a London based trio who wallow in post-punk revivalism, with their sound likened to that of Joy Divison and Interpol. But that's just it. Sure, there are some dance sensibilities thrown in, but they sound like a disco at an old peoples home. The catchiness from 'To Lose My Life' is gone. The guitars are quieter. There isn't any riskiness to the music. Their debut didn't really have that much either, but at least the melodies were half decent. It just feels rushed and not all that memorable. Trust me, I'm not just saying that in order to throw in a negative review. I have listened to this album quite a few times, but on each occasion I've felt the urge to switch to something else. I want to love this, I really do, but after all my efforts to do so, I'm afraid I just can't!
      It is airy though, and the bubbly synthesisers work to create a consistency that's important in an album. I can't help but feel however, that the band shove into the limelight elements to the music that, well, shouldn't be. The production is bland and unoriginal and even corny in parts. Take the opening track for example, which could have been one of the best on the record, 'Is Love'. The atmosphere suffocating the song emulates a forced industrial-dance feel, and the sickening wacka-wacka scratching that makes it way in causes a nausea that's about as edgy as a bowling ball. Although the riffs are decent, the lyrics ("scarlet like a papercut / milk going rancid on the table") are disconnected and weigh down the eager instrumentation. Worst of all however, is the fact that nearly every other track follows suite in promoting a pompous grandeur. White Lies have tried to live up to the passionate, honest sound of 'To Lose My Life'. Instead, arrogance is pursued.
     I'm probably being too harsh. Some tracks are very emotional and work well, queue 'The Power & The Glory'. Overall though, it just doesn't work. Their debut record did, because it felt a lot more thought-through, and that maturity revealed itself in a big physique sonically. This record however, is lazy and feels rushed. The band still try to remain anthemic however, coaxing forth my 'arrogance' label in regards to sound. I'm disappointed, but also pretty sure that White Lies are much better live.
     'Strangers' is the best track though, I have to say. The hook and melody is definitely the best on the album, a clear contrast to say, 'Streetlights'. The vocals on the latter song are dire. C'mon, just listen to the lyrics, "bored girls and sad boys / dull roads to anywhere", and tell me they aren't terrible. Chorus wise, it's not a bad track, but the vocals ruin it, balanced on a luke-warm and boring melody. 'Peace & Quiet is another of the few bright lights that momentarily lifted my mood. The synthesisers here are great, and the vocals are higher in parts, with crackling lyrics overlaid in a very likable manner!
     The album ends with 'Come Down', which flows a little better than most, with it's moody and contemplative air. There are some higher notes hit, but in the end, it just adds to the list of songs on this record that are about as exciting and unexpected as a runny nose in winter. It simply doesn't command my attention at all. These ten tracks are going to wither in the cold shadow of 'To Lose My Life', which I recommend if you can't bring to ear any Joy Division or Interpol. Unoriginal and rushed, it's ostentatious loftiness fails to ignite any spark for me I'm afraid. And I really am. I'm not ashamed to admit that my repeated attempts to 'get' this record have failed, and that my angry disappointment better have made it's impression on the review. Stay away unless you're an absolute fan. Which I was.