Album review: White Denim – ‘Fits’

Brewing in the garages of Austin, Texas is something approaching casual genius

Garages are awesome. Rivers Cuomo knows; the Weezer frontgeek once sang of the humble annex as a Narnia-like haven for his love of Kiss, X-Men and Dungeons & Dragons. White Denim know too.

Just as debut ‘Workout Holiday’ was a cauldron of practically every genre reachable with six arms, a guitar, bass, drumkit and six lungs dressed in the mucky overalls of garage-rock, ‘Fits’ is a similar – but cleverer – beast. And the Texan trio know just what they’re doing: no oblique genre-tourism this. The opening gallop of ‘Radio Milk How Can You Stand It’, fresh with its brilliantly lupine “baby, baby PLEASE!” howl, morphs fluidly into a psych-sodden freakout without warning. The convulsing ‘El Hard Attack DCWYW’, meanwhile, hammers along with the kinetic energy of a charging bull (and a riff that recalls popstrel Amerie’s ‘1 Thing’ just enough to be scientifically brilliant) but suddenly dissolves into a frantic Latino blues explosion. Even ‘Say What You Want’, with its sleazy, stomping riff, suddenly detours into an eastern haze of what sounds like a plucked sitar, even though you know it’s just guitarist James Petralli crouched over some ancient FX pedal.

‘Mirrored And Reverse’ is a bassy whisper that uncoils menacingly before sliding into the sunny ‘Paint Yourself’, a Devendra-like campfire singalong that blossoms almost imperceptibly into a languid rock’n’roll swingfest, and ‘Everybody Somebody’, perhaps the most single-like tune on the record, is buried near the end. By the time its chiming riff pops up it feels like a lightning bolt of melody, which is then caressed into the grotty lounge funk of ‘Regina Holding Hands’ and the haunted lullaby ‘Syncn’.

But, most impressively, none of this becomes evident on the first half-dozen listens. ‘Fits’ initially feels like a decent scratchy rock record made by a band poking their heads above the parapet of hype, but eventually reveals itself to be much more accomplished. In whatever backwater shack they recorded this, they’ve shoehorned the experimental pop leanings of the ’60s, the elephantine riffery of ’70s blues-rock and the rampant eclecticism of the ’80s into a coherent whole that never signposts its intentions, instead giving the listener enough credit to be able to identify them themselves. It’s a fantastic record, a slow-burn masterpiece that buds gradually and thrives on the oxygen of repeated exposure. There’s magic in the garage.

Ben Patashnik

Click here to get your copy of White Denim’s ‘Fits’ from the Rough Trade shop