7 January 2009

The firs big album of the year is finally in my (virtual) hands. The debut from up-and-coming death fanatics White Lies. Hyped to hell with good cause, but there's already been a backlash off the back of one single ("To Lose My Life") and doubts have appeared as to whether this will be a fantastic debut to define the year (e.g. Foals, Vampire Weekend) or an average one whose charms will fade after a few months (e.g. Blood Red Shoes, Cold War Kids, GoodBooks etc). Early signs have been good with the amount of leaks rivalling that of Franz Ferdinand.

Starting off with two recent singles obviously to draw in the casual Radio 1 listener (good move, lads); "Death" and "To Lose My Life" sum up what the band do well: dark widescreen indie with a whole lotta synth as well as their persistent obsession with death. The 80's influence shines through on "A Place To Hide". The bass is so low it could be a New Order b-side and the synths sound like they were ripped from The Killers' debut. But two worrying issues are present throughout the first third of the album; the similarity of the guitar parts and the amount of effects used on Harry McVeigh's voice. It's obvious that they want to be a stadium-filling band, but that should be based from how their songs are preformed live, not how much echo is on the singer's voice. Minor gripes I suppose, but it could grate later on.

"Fifty On Our Foreheads" slows down the pace for a second, but it's really just more of the same gloomy-synthy stuff that you'd expect, but after that is probably the band's best track in "Unfinished Business", the song that made them change from Fear Of Flying, the mediocre indie pop band they once were. The story is rather odd for most bands: Guy is murdered by girlfriend, comes back to haunt girlfriend but finds he's still in love with her. Not your conventional pop song, being honest. And the only way to really describe it is epic. The guitars sound like they were recorded in the Grand Canyon (and they're allowed to after the last 5 years of angular dance-punk bands) and the synths (I'm going to stop saying it now) hide ominously in the background of the track, but they still improve it massively, adding an air of worry and fear.

"E.S.T" is where any Joy Division comparisons are valid. The intro sounds almost exactly like "Atmosphere" but evil. There's a feel of spookiness throughout the track and there's a sense that the album will pick up from here. Again it sounds completely 80's but it makes for an album highlight. There may be some criticism that the band sound too cold and removed from the music, that there's no heart in them. The cold machine-like feel is even represented in the artwork. And while this may be true, you can't deny that the songs are still better than most other bands output. So if they actually put some feeling into their second album, we'd have a classic on our hands.

The remaining part of the album is where White Lies become even more grand and epic. The addition of strings definitely adds to the tracks and the overall quality of them improves. Saving the best 'til last indeed. Hopefully they'll keep this formula for the whole of their next effort. "Farewell To The Fairground" will be a highlight of this year's festivals, with two massive hooks and being possibly the song to propel them into the public consciousness (yep, my opinion has definitely changed on that one). The final third is even better than this. The three songs verge on cinematic, with typical White Lies lyrics of doomed romances and choruses as big as Everest. The quality of these tracks makes up for the underwhelming newer tracks at the start. They point to a great future for the band and will certainly be on some "Tracks Of The Year" lists come this December. "The Price Of Love" is what Brandon Flowers and Bono wish they could be writing right now in terms of "epic-ness" and pure quality. There's hardly a band like White Lies around at the moment, and certainly none that can touch them.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Death", "Unfinished Business", "E.S.T", "Farewell To The Fairground", "Nothing To Give", "The Price Of Love"


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