Release Date: Oct 20, 2009
Record label: Downtown
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
The genre that was once called "college rock" is currently drifting in a distinctly post-graduate direction. But for those who find 2009's US indie vanguard (the Grizzly Animal Projectors, the Dirty Bear Collective, those guys) a little too ethereal for their tastes, this down and dirty Austin, Texas power trio offer a marvellously rocking reality check. No one should mistake White Denim for a back-to-basics enterprise, though.
White Denim's debut album, 2008's Workout Holiday, was an unpredictable shapeshifter - but it sounds straightforward beside its follow-up. Listening to Fits is such a vertiginous experience, you'd think it was the work not of three musicians but three different bands. The first half is dominated by volatile metalheads with a weakness for hip-hop/pop mash-ups: opening track Radio Milk How Can You Stand It itself sounds like a mash-up, dislocated yet perfectly coherent.
Fits is White Denim’s third full-length album, but in many ways, it’s also their first. Although this Austin-based trio has been crafting their own sweat-stained brand of ‘70s-indebted retro rock since 2005, it’s taken some time for the band to get noticed, initially gaining attention the old-fashioned way: by writing short, spiky rock songs and then touring the living hell out of them. They released two EPs in 2007, and a majority of those songs wound up serving as the backbone for their UK-released debut album, Workout Holiday (occasionally referred to as the 11 Songs LP).
Like the Minutemen, White Denim are a versatile and wholly original trio and never appear to be trying that hard. They're not pretty-faced rockers with aspirations of fame and fortune. They're the beer-drinking sort, who just picked up instruments and formed a band because they could; dudes first and foremost, musicians second. But the kicker is that they're astonishingly good.
Never the timid type, the boys of White Denim -- vocalist/guitarist James Petralli, bassist Steve Terebecki, and drummer Joshua Block -- have always flaunted their many sonic guises with gusto. And so Fits opens with a very Beefheart-reminiscent “Radio Milk How Can You Stand It.” Boasting fluctuating time signatures, jangled guitars and a punctuated, uncoiling bass line, “Radio Milk How Can You Stand It” goes through as many changes as there are words in the title. Almost.
The Texas trio’s sophomore release is like a schizoid search for a metronome in a foggy room full of bass and drums. At times Joshua Block’s kit keeps the pace, and at others, the instrumentals are left to run loose on their own tangents. When the album reaches its climax at about mid-point, the record changes pace and you’re left wondering, “What was that?” Ultimately, you don’t totally care to know the answer.
My base-level reaction to White Denim-- a trio who have seemingly never met neither a tempo they can't shift out of at a second's notice nor a branch of psychedelia they can't pluck from-- is a sense of jitteriness and slight unease, which could be what they're aiming toward. Yet once I start to gain a real feel for the band, I don't get the sense, as I do with many of their contemporaries, that they're merely reverent pastiche artists. Oh, there's plenty about their latest album Fits that pulls from the past-- the blistering fury of Love's "7 and 7 Is" is an obvious touchstone; the Doors' lusty freak-bliss pops up often.
Garage rock is perennially on the verge of being in fashion, it would seem. From humble, unrecognised beginnings with MC5 and The Stooges, it went into hibernation before morphing into the trashcan stomp of Jon Spencer and Neil Hagerty, hitchhiked for a short while on the grunge bandwagon until it crashed over the canyon, before rising once more and conquering the world’s stadiums with the bastardised blues of The White Stripes. Yup, garage rock is the perennial phoenix of rock‘n’roll, evermore the ‘next big thing’ in one form or another.
MICHAEL BUBLé"Crazy Love" (143/Reprise) Michael Bublé is a master at juggling musical attitudes, and his new CD, “Crazy Love,” whose title comes from the Van Morrison song, is his most confident balancing act yet. Mr. Bublé respects the Sinatra tradition but doesn’t try to slavishly copy ….