Release Date: May 23, 2011
Record label: Downtown
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
White Denim spit psychedelia, hard blues, boogie, prog rock and fusion riffs like inspired kids weaned on 64GB iPods and 64-ounce Slurpees. The challenge has been feng shui, which they nail on this 37-minute LP. There are countless touchstones, but the sublime attack often recalls late-Sixties Grateful Dead, when their songs still had garage-rock drive but were exploding every which way.
After Fits, White Denim made a few big changes. They expanded from a power trio to a four-piece with second guitarist Austin Jenkins, and then moved out of their studio/practice space, a Silver Bullet caravan on the outskirts of Austin where they recorded their first two albums. Thanks to the new duel guitar attack and increased studio tools at their disposal, D takes a new approach, with a warmer, acoustic spirit and a more expansive, swirly psychedelic style.
Have you ever heard a band that obviously has so many influences woven into the tangles of their musical hair that all you can think to do is scream the names of those influences out in succession at the top of your lungs, knowing that in the end you wouldn’t even have broken the skin of those layers? This is the immediate reaction you’ll get from listening to White Denim. For those of you who have been following their already five-year career and heard their previous three albums, and for the band themselves, references to their multitude of influences have been said, written, and shouted so many times that it’s probably beginning to become an insult, or at the very least boring. Nevertheless, it’s those myriad influences that make White Denim exciting and so unique it’s hardly even necessary to name those sources anyway.
WHITE DENIM freak out at the Garrison Tuesday (June 28). See listing. Rating: NNNN Their band name would better suit some electro-rock act, and their label is mainly known for that kind of thing, but White Denim's music would actually be more at home at Woodstock than Coachella. That's not an insult.
Dis White Denim's fourth album in as many years, and as you might expect from such a statistic, it doesn't differ much from its predecessors. The band's sound hasn't changed radically; they've acquired a second guitarist, but otherwise don't seem to have progressed. Damning criticism? Not at all: White Denim are so fiercely experimental, playful and talented that they cram more radical change into single songs than many bands manage in entire lifespans.
Don’t laugh, but there was a time when people thought of White Denim as just more gob-flecked borstal-punks. This was a misconception arrived at by two roads: that liquid-snot of a name, a pairing of words that signals bad taste even in Belarus, and the Hives-y caveman thump of first single ‘Let’s Talk About It’.Then we heard their synapse-frying albums, saw them exceed the most towering expectations live and had our minds befuddled by a band as lairy and noisy as they are precise and methodical. A group as vintage rock as they are Year Zero, and who are experts at their chosen tools.
At what point does a waterfall of surprises become just another drowning crush of predictable unpredictability? It’s a question that Austin-based White Denim has been wrestling with for much of their five-year existence, and it’s one that they’ve yet to come to answer completely. On D, the band’s fourth full-length album, they once again seem determined to jam just about every sonic element from all the FM-oriented records released between 1966 and 1976 into a vaguely modernized template. Yes, “Street Joy” quotes the melody from “Hey Hey, My My,” the band busts out a Jethro Tull-style flute riff on “River to Consider” (and it’s not Tull-style just because it’s flute … it legitimately sounds like a bit that Ian Anderson would play), and a cut like “Bess St.
White Denim telegraphed their entire new album via "Regina Holding Hands", from 2009's Fits. "Regina" sounded nothing like the skronky, speed-addled garage that had earned the Austin band a deal with RCRD LBL, and a lot more like a leftfield take on airy jazz rock. "Breezy" was the last adjective anyone was expecting to use for this band at that point, and the prospect of an full album of such tentative sap would've been enough to trigger the release of the dreaded "cheese" descriptor.
On “Dark Sided Computer Mouth,” a standout from White Denim’s 2007 debut EP, Let’s Talk About It, the trio lays down some truly nasty funk-punk before lead singer James Petralli gleefully asks someone off-mic, “Come here, you wanna sing?” For their first few years, this off-the-cuff moment summed up the White Denim experience. The band was laid-back enough to invite anyone to the party through big gang-vocal choruses and intensely danceable rhythms. Despite being granted “next-big-thing” backslaps in both their hometown of Austin and by the broader blogosphere, the band's blog love didn’t really lead to greener pastures.
'Prolific' may not be a word commonly associated with musical dexterity, but as far as hard-working Texans White Denim go, it's an accurate description of their ethos. Having released four albums in four years - five if you include last year's compilation of demos and outtakes Last Day Of Summer - they've hardly taken a break since 2008's Workout Holiday launched them as one of that year's most likely candidates for mainstream success. Where that record mixed radio-friendly pop rock like 'Let's Talk About It' with more experimental avant garde material such as 'IEIEI', its follow-ups, particularly 2009's Fits, seemed to favour the latter approach of obtuse song structures featuring long instrumental passages where noodlings of a freeform jazz variety occupied pride of place.
A hard-to-resist fourth LP from the Texan odd-rockers. Mike Barnes 2011 If someone was to undertake scientific analysis to compare the respective abilities of the average rock band in 2011 and those from, say, 1971, it’s likely that in terms of technical ability and sheer on-the-button tightness this year’s models would prevail. But just as contemporary footballers are undoubtedly fitter, faster and more efficient than their predecessors, maybe they lack something in style? On D, Texan four-piece White Denim continue to beg that question.
White Denim's never lacked direction. The longtime local power quartet just has too many tangents meriting exploration. From the early carousal skronk and garage-soul fervor of debut 7-inch Let's Talk About It to the spastic trucker jams on 2008's Exposion and maximum R&B of 2009's Fits, White Denim has reinvented itself with each passing release. The band's fourth full-length, D, largely forgoes the breezy indie pop of last year's digital-only release, Last Day of Summer, attempting instead to usher jazz-fusion into the indie era.