When Breaking More Waves first came across White Lies playing live back in spring of 2008 we wrote on our previous Myspace blog that their sound was widescreen and exhilarating, brooding and gloriously pompous. We thought big potential.
Nine months later and the band have featured highly in industry polls a plenty. We tipped them to be one of our One's To Watch 2009. Our basis for picking them, albeit slightly reservedly was that their gloomy cinematic riffs were neatly polished and produced for a commercial sound; of their genre there was something about them that made them stand out.
Following the release of three singles, their album To Lose My Life is on the creaking shelves, heavy with the weight of expectation that has been built up around them. It’s time to decide if it makes the grade.
The reviews so far have been mixed. The NME gave the thumbs up, The Observer didn’t, arguing that White Lies were a band subsuming their identity to commercial indie formula. We fall somewhere in the middle.
To Lose My Life is a collection of songs that is big on eighties influences. With pounding heavy basslines, death march drums and baritone vocals, there are moments of Simple Minds, Editors, Furniture, Echo and the Bunnymen, Sisters Of Mercy, Ultravox and The Killers throughout the album. The reference points are obvious. Certainly this is not a band who want to move things forward. Their sound is familiar in its stadium gloominess. Around every dimly lit corner of this album there is a big guitar riff, or an epic drawn out synth sound designed to feel momentous and all consuming. It is this design, from the big echoing drums of E.S.T to the rather pedestrian power ballad of Nothing To Give, that leaves the feeling that the album is calculated and rather contrived. If it were a film it would be set on a windswept mountain in black and white and the miserbale looking characters would wear big overcoats with upturned collars.
This is not to say that the songs are bad. Title track To Lose My Life is like an easy to listen to Interpol with a big chorus of “Let’s grow old together and die at the same time.” Then there is the throbbing hands in the air anthem Death with its rousing call of “This fears got a hold of me,” a powerful and explosive song.
The albums biggest failing is in its trite sixth form lyrics. To match the bands music vocalist Harry McVeigh has tried to create big imagery of blood, wind, rain, night and death to bring passion to their songs. Unfortunately it is all done in a rather pubescent cringe worthy way. Take Unfinished Business “I came through thunder cold wind, the rain and the snow, to find you awake by your windowsill, a sight for sore eyes and with a view to kill. I broke down in horror at you standing there, the glow from the moon shone through the cracks in your hair.” Then on From The Stars “He catches raindrops from his window, it reminds him how we fall, from the stars back to the cities, where we’ve never felt so small.” It’s hardly poetry and barely romantic.
Ultimately To Lose My Life is not an album that one could ever feel passionate about, it feels too contrived and lacks soul or real depth to make it a triumph. It is weakened further by its schoolboy lyrics. However, neither is it a huge failure, with some big tunes and production values that will satisfy a demand for those who have enjoyed the bands singles, and are not wishing for any further development or challenges.