Release Date: Jan 18, 2011
Record label: Geffen
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
Click to listen to a live version of White Lies' "Bigger Than Us" White Lies' 2009 debut hit Number One in England, but that doesn't seem to have done much for their mood. On its second album, the group remains as bleak as a London winter, with Harry McVeigh conjuring Smiths-style melancholy in his weighty baritone. What evades White Lies is the candid charm of his Brit-gloom forebears.
Pop ambition rises far above the post-punk buzz-band murk “I’ve got a sense of urgency, I’ve got to make this happen,” White Lies’ vocalist Harry McVeigh intones on Ritual’s second track “Stranger,” and the vast majority of what’s here bears him out. It’s exactly this emotive urgency that all the standard-issue post-punk comparisons miss entirely with this band. Mopey Curtis dopplegangers don’t sing about love the way McVeigh does on the lyrics to “Come Down,” nor do they have the pop sensibility instinctively loaded into his phrasing.
On their second album, Ritual, White Lies explore the darker, more ethereal side of the post-punk revival. Murky and brooding, the album finds the bandmembers developing as songwriters and being rewarded with a deeper sound for their troubles. Stepping out of the shadow of the likes of Interpol and Editors, Ritual captures a sound that’s both ethereal and tense, setting the listener adrift in an ominous sea of synthesizers and brooding vocals.
On the surface, there was nothing gravely wrong with [a]White Lies[/a]’ 2009 debut, ‘[b]To Lose My Life[/b]’. In fact, we’d wager that a sizable minority of those who sent it to the top of the charts two years ago would happily have it canonised as a gloom-rock masterpiece on a par with [a]The Cure[/a]’s ‘[b]Pornography[/b]’ or [a]Interpol[/a]’s ‘[b]Turn On The Bright Lights[/b]’. To my ears, however, it was a little less than that; a solid, serviceable record that cleverly masked its lack of musical imagination with an elaborate facade of emotion.
Smart chaps, White Lies. Not only were they smart enough to drop their first album in the quiet January of 2009, flinging it to No 1 in the process, but they're sharp writers, too. It's hard not to raise a smile at the opening line of Holy Ghost: "You were writhing on the floor like a moth in molasses." Sounds like a school disco and a half. They're repeating the January trick again, but whether Ritual will match the 1m sales of To Lose My Life in Paul Gambacinni's Era of Rock Band Death is unlikely.
A lot of people don’t like White Lies, and as far as I can figure it’s because, in their infinite wisdom, they perceive that a repeat of post-punk is sacrilege. Amidst this school of thought WL represent an irreverent, messy scrawl of graffiti across a once glorious epitaph. These opinions remain a solemn vigil; and a stigma that the likes of Interpol and Editors too suffer from.
Review Summary: commit to your lie.White Lies isn’t the name of this band. There’s nothing white about it: if McVeigh tells a lie, it’s about how he murdered his best friend. If he tells a story, it’s about how someone stabbed him with a pair of scissors and left him for dead. He hasn’t got an anecdote suitable for parties, and he hasn’t got an excuse to miss one that doesn’t end with his heart being torn into five hundred lonely pieces.
Bless White Lies, but the Ealing trio really are an open goal of a band. Blithely crashing the new wave revival party just as everyone else was heading for the pub the next day, debut album To Lose My Life... made Editors look eloquent and restrained, restoring a unitary note of clanging old skool naffness to the UK's rapidly fragmenting indie scene.
British post-punk has been the stylistic destination of choice for a lot of new bands for at least a decade now. Cutting through the blustery pomp of late Brit Pop with the surgical application of spiky guitars, synths, and ‘80s vocal styles, the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Editors, Liars, and Interpol have brought back memories of acts as diverse as Orange Juice, the Pop Group, Gang of Four, Joy Division, and Echo & the Bunnymen. Coming late to the party has meant that White Lies get criticized not only for copying the original groups (and add Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, and Teardrop Explodes in for good measure), but also for sounding like their more recent predecessors.
These London goth rockers took a harsh and mostly deserved critical beating for their 2009 debut, To Lose My Life. Serving up a silencing sophomore album to their detractors would make a nice plot line, but it's not in the cards. Essentially, what it comes down to is whether you're buying what lead singer/guitarist Harry McVeigh is selling. As he did on To Lose, he employs an affected vocal monotone to add gloom to the three-piece's glossy brand of stadium-ready rock.
At the outset, things may seem easy for a band that sounds an awful lot like other bands—they're easy to define, people find them without much trouble (You like Interpol? You should try White Lies!), and there's a track laid out for them. The problem is, a band like White Lies constantly stands next to one of those "You Must Be This Tall to Ride" measuring sticks. White Lies is not as complicated musically or lyrically as Interpol, not as gloomy as Editors, and nowhere near as dangerous and sexy as Joy Division.
It's kind of funny that this London band used to be called Fear of Flying, inasmuch as it's possible to find anything funny about White Lies. Fuck merely flying-- these guys want to soar, to be godlike observers proudly watching their music soundtrack the biggest moments of your life. One of the tracks here is called "The Power and the Glory", and it sounds exactly like you think it does, i.e., more needlessly grandiose than both Kanye songs combined.
The big issues on this second album sound perfect for a manky January. Ian Wade 2011 Ritual, this west London trio’s second album following 2009’s chart-topping debut To Lose My Life, carries on much in the same vein of windswept angst set against the serious-face black-and-white press shots. Broadening their musical palette with electronic touches and nods to Peter Hook’s bass style, Ritual’s references orbit very firmly around a lot of music made pre-1985 – lead singer Harry McVeigh has moved on from the early Ian Curtis intoning, and now has a touch of the Julian Cope about his voice – and is in thrall to the mid-00 new-wavery that the likes of Editors have made their own.
BRAIDS “Native Speaker” (Kanine) In one of art-rock’s unwritten rules, the patterns of Minimalism are usually paired with cosmic or cerebral musings. But it doesn’t apply to Braids, a four-member band formed in Calgary and now based in Montreal that has just released its debut album, “Native Speaker.” Braids’ songs revolve around loops and layers of guitars and keyboards, setting up cascading arpeggios and pointillistic cross-currents, pulsating drones and stereophonic ripples. Clearly, Braids has listened to Minimalist composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and very possibly to bands like Stereolab and Dirty Projectors as well.