White Lies, the heir apparent (Ed. Note (09/03/17): yikes…) to the Joy Division Throne of moody new wave music, had a fantastic debut. Just a little less than two years ago I myself wrote a glowing review of To Lose My Life.
You must understand my sadness then as I’m forced to report from the front lines that this January’s Ritual was a bit of a misstep…
In all fairness, it’s not a bad record. I listened to it 10+ times before I moved it out of regular rotation. Unfortunately, in comparison to its predecessor, it leaves something to be desired.
“What’s so bad about it?” you might ask. The best I can do by way of an analogy is that nearly every track is like its own little Frankenstein; all the right pieces are there, and it looks like a complete song, but the musical parts don’t match too well.
Let’s start with the radio single, ‘Bigger Than Us’. The opening versus are really cool, with a pumping bass line and matching gloomy lyrics, but the chorus is Too Big, not to mention a little whiny. This strange phenomena of one great component and one blah component within the same song, which I’ve seldom witnessed elsewhere, is basically my problem with Ritual.
That’s not to say there weren’t bright spots, though. ‘Holy Ghost‘ comes much closer to meeting my expectations for what White Lies is capable of achieving. It has an industrial texture to it (which is a flair that suits the style of the band), and correctly hits the mark in terms of the correct level of theatrics, with some interesting layers in the last minute.
It’s followed by ‘Turn The Bells’, which is the low point of the record, basically because it is a flat, boring rehash of To Lose My Life‘s, ‘Nothing To Give’. Fortunately, things immediately turn around with ‘The Power & The Glory‘, which is my favorite song:
It’s a slow-builder with a real easy barebones synth backing that gradually increases in intensity, layering on sound in an iterative fashion that is anything but repetitive. If even half the songs measured up to this one, Ritual would be a solid success story.
‘Bad Love’ has a certain epic quality to it that I liked as well, but in this case it’s a little too little too late.
This blog is predicated on me reviewing stuff I like; I want to recommend good music to people. I decided to talk about Ritual because there are a handful of really strong tracks; I recommend the full album, however, with the caveat that it has some disappointing songs, and is perhaps only for die-hard White Lies fans.
The casual listener should snap up the aforementioned quality tunes in what ever ad hoc way they deem suitable (MP3 album is linked below, for this express purpose).