MP3: White Lies – Death
A few years ago, when I was just getting into “indie” (a term that remains definitionally ambiguous to this day), I went to my first non-Merriweather Post Pavilion concert at the 9:30 Club. I got all jazzed up and went with a friend of mine to DC, thinking we were the most “deck” kids around for going to an “indie” show in a big city. The lineup consisted of Louis XIV, Hot Hot Heat, and the headlining Editors, who seemed radically inventive to me at the time. Upon a casual re-listen, they play like a bunch of guys with reverb pedals and enough time to listen to college radio. The misguided person I was at that point in my life would hold onto White Lies’ To Lose My Life like he did to his copy of Is This It.
What we have here is a less-than-admirable collection of similar-sounding songs in the overdone style of post-Interpol UK indie rock. Their formula is dead obvious in the first 15 seconds of album opener “Death,” with its driving four-four-time bass beat and three-note bass line. Throw in some stringy synthesizers for epic’s sake and guitars to place emphasis, come up with a harmony-inflected chorus and a bridge to foreshadow the final repetition and you’ve got yourself a full track! Of course, none of the music escapes from its pentatonic cage; White Lies stick to their guns on To Lose My Life, consistently starting with the drums/bass/synth foundation and building straight up like an architect bereft of inspiration.
Single “Farewell To The Fairground” follows this equation to its very end. The video accompanying the track shows everything cliche about music videos to a horrid degree. Skinny guys working out, some dude walking through a desolate landscape, mouthing the words as if they had some artistic association to the scenery. Bonus points to White Lies for those jingly staccato guitar bits in the verse, but as they continue the repulsive bridge (“keep on running/keep on running/there’s no place like home/there’s no place like home”) right through the three-minute mark, they turn the scales just enough to make the transition from second-rate indie rock to “Really? Really really?”
If you pay attention to the finer elements of the album, you’ll find at least one or two praiseworthy qualities, one of which is the sterling production. The percussion shows itself to be crisp and refined, and the synth and guitar effects sound so precisely tuned that they rival that of the 80’s new wave elite. There are no mistakes made on To Lose My Life, never a note out of place, nothing, but maybe that contributes to the album’s problematic conception.
Perfection takes the life out of things. One of the biggest issues put forth on To Lose My Life is that it almost feels like robots recorded the whole thing between shifts at the take-over-the-world factory. The immaculate production, combined with mathematical song structure and the overall lack of creativity provide the impression that an artist never even touched the record.
“Unfinished Business” runs like the unwanted B-side off the twenty-years-off Interpol reunion album I hope they never make, complete with chamber organs and the stern vocals of Harry McVeigh introducing an absurdly familiar recollection of any gentler post-punk tune. The sincerity they attempt to invoke in these tracks, elsewhere duplicated on “Nothing To Give,” is completely lost through the layers of production and the complete lack of personality presented throughout To Lose My Life.
Comparatively speaking though, this album isn’t half-bad. Judged against the more popular Nickelbacks and Hinders of the world, one might find White Lies to be damn near ingenious. The few-years-ago me that I spoke of earlier would surely think so. I only wish that this is what the average rock radio DJ would pump through the airwaves, because I think we’ve all heard just about enough Trapt for one lifetime (looking at you, deceased 99.1 ‘HFS).
And that’s something, right?
Release Date: January 19 2009
2. To Lose My Life
3. A Place to Hide
4. Fifty on Our Foreheads
5. Unfinished Business
7. From the Stars
8. Farewell to the Fairground
9. Nothing to Give
10. The Price of Love
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