White Lies

Big TV

Written by: TL on 14/09/2013 20:36:51

For those who have heard of White Lies without ever really bothering to get into them, the London trio's now three albums might not sound that different to each other. Since exploding in popularity even before the release of 2009's "To Lose My Life", White Lies have been known for their expansive electro-rock soundscape, bringing back the soaring effect pedals and synth-tones popularised by the likes of A-Ha and U2 up through the 80s and 90s, but while that's clearly the telltale trademark of the band, 2011's "Ritual" showed interesting signs of development to anyone bothering to do dig deeper.

While "To Lose My Life" had three or four singles that were great enough to forge the band's reputation, it also suffered of inconsistency across its mid-section, showing signs of remaining inexperience. "Ritual" on the other hand, took the band's trademark style in a much more intricate and explorative direction, developing songs more conciously while occasionally daring to break formula and even managing this with impressive effect (check out the part in the middle of "Strangers" which just sits there sweetly without any need for repetition). Suffice to say, that following that album's qualities, I was actually looking forward to this year's "Big TV" with some anticipaticion.

From the offset then, it's easy to feel gratified, as opening duo "Big TV" and "There Goes Our Love Again" greet you welcome impressively, one heavy of beat, the other fleet-footed, both showcasing better examples of the band's knack for embedding catchy choruses among the echoing chord-strokes and cavernous synths. As the record proceeds however, "Big TV"'s main strenght soon proves to be its biggest disadvantage. You see, the album supposedly centres thematically around a story of a couple that moves from the town to the city, and about their struggles to maintain equality in their relationship. Yet "Big TV" doesn't feel much like a concept album or even a coherent story, as each song follows loyally in the footsteps mapped out by the first two, winding up as a ten catchy enough songs, that simply sound too much alike and stand too little apart to really compliment each other.

Just listen to further examples like "First Time Caller" and "Getting Even", both of which prime the listener to sing along to the choruses already with their titles. Granted, this is hardly a new tactic for White Lies, but as opposed to the songs on "Ritual", which enrichened their bars in timely fashion, consistently giving the listener more to listen to with perfect timing, these tunes feel like they have only two modes; restrained verse and high strung chorus, and they take each other's places so predictably that it gets hard to pay attention to the second half of the album, because it just feels like more of what was on the first half.

At track seven, "Change" tries to work an uncompromising angle, opting to support singer Harry McVeigh's solemn barytone only with keys and ambiance, but ends up borderline sleep-inducing, and when some warm, pulsating bass lines finally breathe life into "Tricky To Love" and "Heaven Wait" at tracks ten and eleven, one simply wonders; "Where was this for the nine preceeding tracks?" In conclusion then, I admit to having ended up frustrated in my attempt to embrace "Big TV", because to put it simply, it strikes me as a collection of solid singles that all work out well enough individually, yet are cut too similarly to ever come together in a sonic journey that feels like more than the sum of its parts. Consequentially, this is one of those strange records where you'll be able to sing along to almost every chorus, yet it's still one that it's tough to get through in one cover-to-cover sitting.


Download: Big TV, There Goes Our Love Again, Tricky To Love
For The Fans Of: A-Ha, U2, Glasvegas, The Maccabees, The Killers, Maximo Park
Listen: facebook.com/WhiteLies

Release Date 12.08.2013
Fiction / Harvest / Universal

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