“All this eighties indie/it sounds like shit to me/because I don’t like Joy Division/I don’t like Morrissey” – ‘Crushed Under The Weight of The Enormous Bullshit’, Reuben
For several years, that line summed up my feelings towards contemporary music. In recent years though, my views have mellowed. While I still hold Morrissey with the same contempt that G. G. Allin held for showers and human decency, Joy Division eventually clicked with me, due in no small part to Anton Corbijn’s Control. With this thawing of my icy relationship, I was able to listen to bands like Interpol and Editors with new ears. I still hate them, but now it’s because I think they’re boring. In fact one of the few bands who I’d enjoy from this time is White Lies. They may be derivative, but in 2009 they wrote some fantastic hooks. It’s been nearly four years since their time in the limelight, and the band seem intent on stepping back into it with their latest release Big TV. It appears that in order to do this though, the band decided that the best plan of attack would be to essentially remake their debut record.
There are more than a few points on the album that seem less like homages to earlier songs and more like straight forward reworkings of older material. Even the more “experimental” tracks, such as ‘Change’ or the instrumentals ‘Space i’ and ‘Space ii’, don’t really separate themselves from the pack and seem more like afterthoughts than fully formed pieces.
With that said, the whole LP is not bad. The album places a huge emphasis on the hooks, most of them holding the songs together, and it pays off. It is loaded with spectacular hooks and choruses that you can’t help but murmur to yourself long after the album has finished. The likes of ‘Getting Even’ and ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ seem to bypass that part of the brain that is too cool to sing along and get you wailing like a drunkard on karaoke night. There is an element of stadium rock deeply embedded within the band’s genetic code and it helps them stand out from the pack. They sound like Joy Division and the a lot of other mid-80s post punk, but they’ve got an expanse of sound which can at times rival bands like U2, for better or worse.
In the end that is what White Lies seem to want. They want to find that perfect mixture of stadium sized scale and eighties exasperation and melancholy and, with Big TV, they have some success. Nothing on it is in as good as it should be and the derivative nature of the band does begin to grate after a point. But when the album’s parts finally do fit together, it creates fist- raising, dramatic sing-a-long moments and in the end that is a pretty good achievement in and of itself. Will Murphy