A smart, retronic record for anyone who wanted The King of Limbs to be more sing-along.
Mark Beaumont 2012-03-08
The city that never sleeps has finally been caught napping. Brooklyn, once the driving force of 21st century alt-pop, appears to have caught up with the 80s revival four years too late. Hence recent albums from Chairlift and School of Seven Bells that couldn’t be more in debt to Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night if they were full of samples of skirts being flapped around a farmstead; and this, the third album from leftfield rockers White Rabbit, formerly berated for their adherence to stolid indie formulae on their Britt-Daniel-from-Spoon-produced second album It’s Frightening. Ironically, it’s the Rabbits that achieve here what dozens of wannabe Weidlins have failed to pull off: making the neon decade sound like the future.
Take opening track and first single Heavy Metal, arguably the least heavy metal song called Heavy Metal ever. The drums are as Biko as they come. The synths are so Hall & Oates they virtually have Miami Vice mullets. The funksome beat just came running up that hill. Yet there’s a sizzle to the guitar slashes and a glitch to the electro loop that instantly updates these dated sounds with a hint of Foalsy freshness. Similarly, I’m Not Me gives post-disco ELO an exhilarating modern punch and swirl. When they merge such retro-futurism with dashes of Radiohead cranktronica (as on Hold It to the Fire, Are You Free and the driving In Rainbows drone of Danny Come Inside) and singer Stephen Patterson’s Brendan Benson-like way with a syrupy vocal and meteoric collegiate rock melody (as on Everyone Can’t Be Confused), White Rabbits concoct something both contemporary, cultish and catchy as a cod net.
Melody and trickery is deployed in equal measure, rarely simultaneously. The Motion Picture Soundtrack-style tsunamis of tumbling treated pianos are given free reign to dominate It’s Frightening (a track, we can presume from the title, that they’d dreamed of last time round) without being bothered by much of a tune, while the strident and straight-ahead The Day You Won the War is smothered in hooks and oil-smoke electro rock’n’roll. The result is a smart, retronic record for anyone who wanted The King of Limbs to be a bit more sing-along. And this whole 80s thing to get a bit less T’Pau.