Thursday, March 19, 2009

New album review

White Lies
To Lose My Life

Dark themes don’t always equal dreary music. Take White Lies, for example. Bassist and primary lyricist Charles Cave favors morbid couplets, but on the band’s stunning first album To Lose My Life, everything is dressed up with sharp post-punk and upbeat New Romantic sounds (think old Echo & the Bunnymen and Ultravox, plus some Killers and Interpol).

The London trio, barely out of their teens, has been the toast of Britain’s overly excitable music press since two EPs came out last year. This time, the hype is justified. Life recently made its U.K. chart debut at No. 1. Frenetic opening track “Death” finds versatile singer/guitarist Harry McVeigh repeating “this fear’s got a hold of me” to ultra-dramatic synth strains and stabbing guitar lines. “To Lose My Life” is driven by a Duran Duran-styled bassline and pleas to “grow old together and die at the same time.”

Then there’s the haunting “Unfinished Business,” which revolves around doomed lovers. Here, church organ and surf guitar bursts lead the way (key line: “you’ve got blood on your hands and I know it’s mine”). Other standouts delve into a millionaire’s breakdown at a funeral (the picturesque “From the Stars”), pros and cons of Electro-Shock Therapy (austere, Joy Division-like “E.S.T.”) and a hostage drama ending in – you guessed it – murder (intense album closer “The Price of Love,” all awash in orchestral flourishes). Totally enrapturing. One of 2009’s best debuts so far.

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