Release Date: Mar 31, 2015
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Garage Punk, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Alternative Country-Rock, Indie Folk
Does a musician need to be in anguish and turmoil to make truly great music that touches the soul? Does the discovery of contentedness that comes with age necessarily put out the fires of youth? It's a widely held belief that both of these things are true, but listening to William Elliott Whitmore's Radium Death proves both of those statements wholly untrue. Brimming with the life and joy Whitmore hinted at on 2011's Field Songs, Radium Death moves faster and with more bounce than anything he's released thus far in his career. In terms of subject matter, death still lurks around every corner, but Whitmore seems full of a new levity that allows him to take it in a far more optimistic way; songs like "Don't Strike Me Down" and "Healing to Do" shine in the midst of destruction and chaos.
William Elliott Whitmore is well-known for his raw, poetic, rural folk albums. On all of them, his rough-hewn growl of a voice is skeletally accompanied by only his banjo or acoustic guitar. Whitmore's always played in punk clubs, and he's claimed bands from the Jesus Lizard and Bad Brains to the Minutemen as influences on his own music. It's been somewhat difficult to hear that influence until now.
The surface-level view of William Elliott Whitmore is that of a midwestern folkie, having grown up in Iowa on his family’s farm. In fact, his authentic, earthy American roots are a defining quality in his music; his soulful vocals and simple plucks of banjo or acoustic guitar are all he’s ever really needed to convey a direct, emotional message of darkness and loss. But if he’s an earnest, heartland troubadour, he’s one that’s always had one foot in the world of punk rock, having grown up listening to bands like Bad Brains and The Minutemen.
Call him a ferocious folkie, a belligerent bluesman or a precocious punker. Whatever you do, don’t call him out. As evidenced by the rabid tones of Radium Death, his eighth album and perhaps his most demonstrative, Whitmore is both resolute and resilient.