Release Date: Mar 29, 2019
Record label: City Slang
Though they are from Austin, and started out as a punk power trio, much of White Denim's ninth studio album, 2019's Side Effects, sounds like it could have been recorded by a psychedelic rock band in Los Angeles in 1969. That fuzz-tone, reverb, and echo-pedal sound is pretty much the aesthetic bandleaders James Petralli (vocals, guitars) and Steve Terebecki (bass) have been aiming for since at least 2011's D. While the lineup has gone through changes over the years (there are even at least three different drummers credited here), White Denim have remained remarkably consistent.
Broadly, listening to the album feels like stumbling across a band in the second biggest tent at a music festival, at about 5pm on the Saturday, and inevitably enjoying it. But White Denim have ten years of work behind them - there is much more to this record than that. Their versatility is most evident in the range of influences: not just punk and progressive rock, but '70s psych and bluegrass.
It’s been less than a year since the last White Denim record, and only a month or so since their last EP – they’re the type of band that always seem to be creating something, promoting it, touring or doing stuff. Restlessness can be lethal to the modern band, especially if they lack the ideas to keep the ship afloat. The problem with Side Effects, especially coming only a short time after the rather great Performance, is that while some songs feel like they have too many ideas going on, others feel like they have none.
A decade on from their debut album, Texans White Denim have evolved into something of a left-field institution, pumping out wired guitar music that oscillates between exhilarating math-rock (at their most jazz) and machine funk boogie (at their most danceable). Having built their own studio, the duo of James Petralli and Steve Terebecki (plus a revolving cast of helpmeets) took stock of all their half-finished tracks for a swift follow-up to 2018's Performance album. Small Talk, Side Effects' opener, is the oldest chronologically.