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White Denim D Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

A hard-to-resist fourth LP from the Texan odd-rockers.

Mike Barnes 2011

If someone was to undertake scientific analysis to compare the respective abilities of the average rock band in 2011 and those from, say, 1971, it’s likely that in terms of technical ability and sheer on-the-button tightness this year’s models would prevail. But just as contemporary footballers are undoubtedly fitter, faster and more efficient than their predecessors, maybe they lack something in style?

On D, Texan four-piece White Denim continue to beg that question. Their music is ostensibly melodic, psychedelic rock with sweet and sunny vocal lines that would sound at home against a strummed acoustic guitar. But their musical structure of choice involves restless, super-tight patterns, with time changes that remind of 70s progressive styles and 90s math-rockers. Drummer Joshua Block is technically impressive, but on a song like At the Farm he hyperactively fills up almost all of space in the music. Thankfully, it’s followed by the languid Street Joy, on which James Petralli sings with sweetness reminiscent of Jeff Buckley.

While White Denim have a tendency to enthusiastically overcook things, ultimately it’s their sheer audacity – allied to some strong tunes - that makes D hard to resist. They also appear to be quite unabashed at what they choose to emulate and come up with some strange combinations as a result. At times the twin guitars interlock and play off each other in a way that recalls the angularities of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band; sometimes they seem to nod back – perhaps coincidentally – to the sort of twiddly twin lead breaks beloved of bands like Wishbone Ash. And just when you least expect it, Is and Is and Is suddenly bursts out in a ‘classic rock’ chorus that is positively Bon Jovian.

First prize amongst the unusual hybrids, though, goes to Anvil Everything. Try if you will, to imagine early-70s Jethro Tull played tropicalia style, with verses suddenly cutting to flute arpeggios that sound like they are spiralling off in search of a Philip Glass composition. And all delivered as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

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