Another brilliant shape shift: here comes math-boogie
Don’t laugh, but there was a time when people thought of White Denim as just more gob-flecked borstal-punks. This was a misconception arrived at by two roads: that liquid-snot of a name, a pairing of words that signals bad taste even in Belarus, and the Hives-y caveman thump of first single ‘Let’s Talk About It’.
Then we heard their synapse-frying albums, saw them exceed the most towering expectations live and had our minds befuddled by a band as lairy and noisy as they are precise and methodical. A group as vintage rock as they are Year Zero, and who are experts at their chosen tools. As this fourth album arrives with all the driving force of an articulated lorry, fans can hail their patience as wisdom.
White Denim (now a four-piece) have never been less than terrific, but as they move further from the garage and embrace their real love – early ’70s Americana – they defy all probability. This time it’s a fondness for the wiggy jam-band sound of Lowell George’s Little Feat that’s channelled through wiry post-hardcore and the triumphant yet finickity bits of post-rock. It’s a breathless fusion played at dumbfounding speed and gives rise to a sound we’ll call math-boogie.
They’re slippery buggers, though. Even their technical chops can’t disguise a sunny disposition that brings flute-wreathed acid Latin to ‘River To Consider’. The whirling prog of ‘Anvil Everything’ ushers in the same wry, psychedelic haze that saw the band pay tribute to Chile’s nut-job director Alejandro Jodorowsky in their 2009 video for ‘I Start To Run’. And nestled between hectic pin-sharp jams they toss off country-soul songs as pretty as ‘Street Joy’ and ‘Keys’ – James Petralli’s voice now dreamier than My Morning Jacket’s Jim James.
But it’s the southern riot of ‘Bess St’ and the brilliant intensity of ‘Burnished’, burrowing into its accompanying speed-jam ‘Back At The Farm’, that’ll knock you on your arse – an amphetamine-laced gumbo of Allman Brothers riffs fired off around a pile-driving rhythm Neu! would be proud of. Did someone really just mention The Hives?