I can’t help but feel sorry for White Lies. Arriving onto the scene in 2009 with debut To Lose My Life… backed by the full force of the NME hype machine, the band could do no wrong; they were critical darlings. Fast forward two years and what’s happened? They no longer have the NME’s favour (I assume because they can no longer qualify for flavour of the month), and as a result their star has fallen quite rapidly amongst the ‘cool’ publications. It’s such a shame, because on listening to second album Ritual, White Lies have enhanced their sound and improved beyond belief.
At the very centre of White Lies’ sound lies a huge, anthemic heart. Massive choruses are an absolute must for the band, but rather than it being a paint-by-numbers type affair, those choruses sound absolutely natural to both the band and any song they’re in. Nowhere is this more apparent than in lead single “Bigger Than Us.” It starts with a quick tempo and the kind of drum pattern that could be applied to any chase scene in any movie. It’s a wonderful mixture of industrial and driving rock that doesn’t just evolve into a big chorus, the chorus explodes from the verse, jumping out at the listener and completely throttling them with blaring synths and crunching guitars. “Strangers” follows the same pattern, except the song is less rock and far more electronic. It sounds how rock should be at the moment, in contrast to all the retro bands of the past decade. “Is Love” is a scintillating, up tempo number that owes a great deal to the Madchester scene of the late ’80s/early ’90s. It’s definitely a departure for White Lies, but one that’s exciting and gives a glimpse of what the band could do in the future.
There is a softer side to Ritual. “Peace and Quiet” is symphonic, with multi-layered vocals only adding to the texture already provided by the strings. The song is downbeat compared to the rest of the album; slower, quiter and far more minimalist. The title gives a few clues as well. Normal service is resumed for the remaining songs, industrialesque drumming coupled with gloomy atmospherics, the kind of keyboard sounds you’d find on GoldeneEye 007. The chorus of “Turn The Bells” is a brief, dreamy escape from the driving doom and gloom, but why stray too far from a formula that works so well.
Ritual’s only downsides are the odd lyrical clunkers that crop-up. “You went where the horses cry/ You’ve never taken that way with me before,” “I’m falling like rain for you,” and “Like a moth in molasses” aren’t exactly the most inspiring of phrases, and neither are they as complex and intriguing as the music on the album. However, to take the album down a peg or two on the example of a few naff lyrics would be ridiculous. Ritual is an enthralling album, highlighting a band flexing their musical muscles, trying to grow and add new sounds to their existing palette. There’s the potential for the band to become a very good and a very important rock band in the near, or far future. They may not be cool anymore, but White Lies are definitely still good.