Six albums in thirteen years is not a bad return. Despite a challenging second album that followed their smash 2009 debut, To Lose My Life, the industrious, west London threesome have built up and sustained a fervent fan base. McVeigh, Cave and Lawrence-Brown are back with As I Try Not to Fall Apart.
In keeping with the theme of mortality that has been evident since the days of early single 'Death', 'Am I Really Going to Die' is an intriguing opener. The soft keys intro burst into anthemic, indie pop, led by the baritone vocals of Harry McVeigh. With the title, you could have expected something with a darker edge; however, White Lies are masters of disguising serious themes (mental health, alienation, narcissism, terminal illnesses) with killer hooks and soaring, sonic artistry. The track is paired with the final song on the LP, 'There is No Cure for It.' - two parts of the same story of a deluded businessman that arrogantly refuses to accept the inevitable.
Bassist Charles Cave wrote the bones of the title track in a single evening. It has an early '80s, new-wave flavour. It goes to the core of the challenges that bands have faced during the past two years in terms of being way outside their established comfort zones of collaboratively writing & performing. Cave's lack of purpose and self-doubt in unprecedented times is delivered by McVeigh - "I am no special grain of sand or undiscovered star / Am I a low and lacking man, no shimmer to my soul?"
The two best efforts on the LP follow. 'Breathe', written with steadfast collaborator Ed Buller has a finger-clicking intro that sets the table for a funk-fest of Chic-like comparisons. According to Cave in the XS Noize interview podcast, the 1984 cult hit 'Dance Hall Days' by Wang Chung was a major muse for the track.
The piercing guitar riffs on 'I Don't Want to go to Mars' are archetype McVeigh. The song is inspired by the disillusionment with the apparent technological "progress", dearth of information and the "look at me" culture epitomised by the recent corporate mogul space duel.
The fuzzy, booming industrial beats to begin 'Roll December' are powerful. Although, at well over the six minutes, the track possibly lingers too long and undermines its early promise. 'Ragworm' has a hint of British industry nostalgia about it - "Your brother tans his muscles to the sound of factory bells / Boys on the cove selling worms to the boats coming ashore." 'The End' is brooding, dramatic and grandiose.
White Lies often get lumped into the same conversation as moody contemporaries Editors & Interpol and defining pioneers such as Joy Division. However, when you look under the bonnet, there are a range of diverse influences peppered through the album that have left an impression, such as Bowie's Berlin period, Talking Heads, Nick Cave and Franz Ferdinand.
Their current single, the spacious 'Blue Drift', lent heavily on the prog-rock influences of the likes of Passport. Prog rock is not a genre that immediately springs to mind when you put on a White Lies LP, but it's there.
The band is in a good place. They are not hung up on delivering a conveyor belt of chart hits, and they have a loyal following behind them that deeply appreciate their craft. White Lies write with a gothic wit & ingenuity and show no signs of letting this fall apart.
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