Release Date: Oct 29, 2013
Record label: Downtown
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Listening to an album from Austin guitar loop enthusiast foursome White Denim can be an exhausting experience. As inventive as they are in drawing influences from blues, punk, psychedelic rock and soul, their ideas and, subsequently, their music can be all over the place, and with so many factors at hand, they often have to hit just the right combination of notes for the music to succeed. On their latest release, Corsicana Lemonade, the band ventures heavily into the soul realm of their influences.
Austin, Texas' White Denim have matured considerably over the years, from a shambolic, punk-influenced trio to an experimental and often psychedelic-tinged roots quartet. Some of this growth came with the addition of guitarist Austin Jenkins in 2010, who brought a bluesy, country-tinged quality to the band that was more Allman Brothers than Minutemen. The band's fifth studio album, 2013's Corsicana Lemonade, showcases even more growth from the band with a set of earthy, often jam-oriented songs showcasing the one-two punch of Jenkins and lead singer/songwriter James Petralli.
White Denim’s journey has seen them travel from sleazy, sloppy garage rock basements through to the marbled bathrooms of 70s Americana. Previous album, ‘D’, was full of wiggy jams and nods to prog, jazz and hazy psychedelia. But it was always important to remember was that they are a group as much about now as they are about digging through their vintage rock records.‘Corsicana Lemonade’ then is another chance to play spot the influence – there’s boogie rock, soft rock ballads and nods towards blues and country, there’s even Thin Lizzy glam rock.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2011, Texas quartet White Denim revealed that they were coming under pressure to write pop songs. Two years on, they appear to have decided that is not such a bad thing. Corsicana Lemonade may take them to a much bigger audience, like El Camino did for the Black Keys. White Denim's trademark swampy garage rock now comes gift-wrapped with more direct songwriting and catchy choruses.
Since the arrival of quick-fingered guitarist Austin Jenkins, White Denim has been able to expand and perform the increasingly complex arrangements written by frontman James Petralli. Growing to a four-piece ushered in the freedom for a string of releases that mark a drastic departure from their days as a chaotic and aggressive garage rock band. The band took the soul-pop sensibilities of “Paint Yourself” and “Regina Holding Hands” off of side B of their Downtown Records debut, Fits, and ran with it, becoming much more funky and accessible, without losing their edge.
White Denim’s under-appreciated D was a modern-day passion play rooted in the increasingly obsolete traditions of rock and roll. Corsicana Lemonade still boasts enormous, across-the-board instrumental (not to mention vocal) talent. However, with its highly structured individual recordings, the album surprises less than White Denim’s fierce previous efforts.
It’s kind of amazing how much White Denim has changed over the years, despite the fact that they continue to constantly do the same thing: make damn good rock music. Back when 2009’s Fits came out, the band, who already released numerous releases to increasing fanfare, rode their never-ending blog buzz to a respectable full-length that felt patched-together from wildly disparate elements, ready to fall apart any point but kept alive by their dynamic energy, surprising songwriting, and genuine sense of fun and discovery throughout. Thus, when 2011’s much bigger-budgeted D arrived, it seemed like the band was about to break onto the mainstream.
Burst onto the scene in a roar of punkish energy, jazzy time signatures and Southern Fried boogie, White Denim seemed to have carved out a niche for themselves as the thinking man’s slice of Texan rock and roll, bringing an intricacy and invention to a world that is all too often mired in overindulgence or lunk-headed simplicity. However, while it was easy to admire their early albums and a live show that could be the very definition of the word blistering, they were a difficult band to love. All that energy and ideas was all well and good, but it would be nice to hear a chorus every now and then.
Texas rockers White Denim have a rich sense of rock history and a 21st-century attention span – like Steely Dan raised on video games and weed. At times, their blender whir of blues boogie, hippie country, jazz rock and psychedelia can be a bit too-too head-spinning. But as with the quartet's great 2011 album, D, there are moments on Corsicana Lemonade when all of the pieces click perfectly into place; "A Place to Start" rolls along on a velvet soft-rock groove, and on nearly every song, the band's knack for compacting oblong, ramble-tamble jams into tight, buzzing puzzles is dazzling.
White DenimCorsicana Lemonade(Downtown)Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars White Denim is a band that sounds like a lot of things; what they don’t sound like is a group based out of the singer/songwriter/country/blues mecca of Austin, Texas. But that’s nothing new to fans that recognized their diamond-in-the-rough talent from as far back as 2007’s debut EP. First as a trio, now a quartet, White Denim borrows from garage, funk, prog, hard rock, glam and about a hundred other influences to craft their own unique brew of indie excitement.
Bands this proficient – and Texan math-rock foursome White Denim are scarily good at playing their instruments – can easily end up making pointlessly masturbatory virtuoso-rock. Five albums in and White Denim are springing from Thin Lizzy (At Night in Dreams) to jazz (Distant Relative Salute), via Afrobeat (the title track) and southern boogie (Come Back) with customary ease. Every rhythmic lurch and stylistic shift, though, remains in the service of the band's greater groove, giving these 10 tracks an ease that belies their ferocious complexity.
Of all the genres listed for White Denim on Wikipedia—indie rock, art rock, prog-rock, Southern rock, psychedelic rock—my vote for Most Accurate goes to Southern rock. This is largely because of the ubiquitous goddamn electric guitar that never goes away, and yes, I made that sentence redundant to simulate the listening experience. The constant noise is a little like listening to a person who is very uncomfortable with silence and feels the need to fill every little gap in conversation with meaningless comments about the weather or what they ate for breakfast.
White Denim have always felt musically restless, producing a series of compelling and tightly-wound albums that are marked out, as much by their accomplished musicianship, as their fitful and disorienting invention. Perpetually creative, they have transitioned in style from breakneck garage rock on Workout Holiday and psych-math jams on Fits, to the rambling prog-blues of D – as though searching for the answer to an unknown question. So, when you first hear the Texan quartet’s latest LP - Corsicana Lemonade - with it’s straightforward delivery of classic southern-fried rock, you might be forgiven for feeling a little disarmed.
White Denim Corsicana Lemonade (Downtown) Don't expect a breakthrough single from Corsicana Lemonade. White Denim's carved a career out of defying expectations and easy outs, crafting the kind of idiosyncratic albums that collectors will be digging for in decades to come. The band's fifth LP sounds a lifetime removed from the Spartan trailer spunk of 2007's vinyl debut Let's Talk About It, still the best encapsulation of the then-trio's absurdist garage rock and livewire appeal.
opinion byJESSE NEE-VOGELMAN Listening to Corsicana Lemonade reminds me of buying a couch. There are a lot of couches out there, they’re all pretty similar, and you probably don’t need two. But, if you don’t have one and need somewhere comfortable to sit your tuchus, it’s as good as any. It’s White Denim’s ill fortune to play in a market oversaturated with decent white-boy rock.