, January 6th, 2011 08:28
One of those odd words in the English lexicon with an opposing, yet complementary double meaning, 'ritual'. In its original sense, it signifies a magical or religious ceremony of stylised and sacred steps designed to effect the performer's will. In a secular world, the word has also grown to mean a routine action or empty charade, a puppet show without the attendant spirits, a mundane acting out of forms and norms. The ritual of Holy Communion on one hand, or the ritual of flossing one's teeth on the other.
Yes, you can probably see where I'm heading with this, and indeed, to join in the chorus of critical raspberries aimed in this unit-shifting young London trio's direction does feel in itself a bit like going through the motions. Better that, though, than going through the bowel motions of those who dutifully tick the boxes necessary to declare them Britain's new conquering doom-rock heroes from the front pages, or those brazen enough to mention them in the same sentence as... No, sorry, I can't even do it.
And anyway, no sane mind could keep from devising the most exquisitely excruciating of Bateman-esque tortures to drain the blood from the ruddy cheeks of Harry, Charles and Jack (they Photoshop out the rud for the press shots of course) on actually listening to Ritual. White Lies probably love American Psycho though. Probably did their A-Level coursework on it.
Opening punt 'Is Love' suggests they're trying to edge into a dark, light-industrial dance territory, but its hysterically horrible oscillating wacka-wacka scratching sounds and general puff-chested pomp suggest nothing more edgy than the recent misadventures in beat of fellow shiny-faced berks Keane. And those lyrics! "She stares into the mirror / Youth fading with the sun" intones Harry McVeigh with what he probably imagines is a Tennysonian gravitas. Dramatic frozen scenes and mystery 'she's, disconnected phrases and images ("scarlet like a papercut" " milk going rancid on the table") are the wooden actors in bassist Charles Cave's lyrical Twilight. Though the riffs bound forward eager and coltish, the deadening weight of that ludicrously affected voice saddles them with sag.
The songs themselves are too simple, too by-the-book in structure to bear up under the weight of such buffoonery, no matter what cloaks of production grandeur are swept over them. White Lies live are one of the funniest things you'll ever see, but on record the joke soon pales, and a lot faster this time round than on debut 'To Lose My Life', which at least boasted some youthful first-time brio. 'Strangers', with an impeccable radio heft and polish courtesy of the evil hand of Alan Moulder, claims "I've got a sense of urgency", but leaves the listener feeling anything but, sail its synths like blank flags as it may. The chorus of first single 'Bigger Than Us' (Big Country going to a fancy dress party as Depeche Mode) builds clunkily in all the expected ways, but any traces of surge you might feel are much like the escaping tingles you feel as someone vainly plugs away down below during forgettable sex.
Talking of which, 'Streetlights' wanks over the lyrical biscuit with the absolute belter "Bad sex and ethanol, high scores on Solitaire...," though it's run close by the petulant bass-grumble of 'Holy Ghost', which sonically is exactly the feared consequence that made The Big Pink throw the tapes for 'Stop The World' out of a moving car window rather than put it on their debut album. "You were writhing on the floor like a moth in molasses / Whoever taught you to move your body like that?" "Maybe some day I can scream like you / I'm not looking for a holy ghost..." It's anyone's guess what in the Christing fuck they're on about.
'Turn The Bells' has a flat Interpol-ish sort of chug and somehow manages to make its scanty scaffolding sound impossibly portentous and over-egged. 'Bad Love' is a dour trudge of crime passionel, Hollyoaks-style, over a limp attempt at Numan's 'Down In The Park': "Speaking down the phone line to your mum, she said honey ain't home right now / I bought a tuxedo and I bought a gun... If I'm guilty of anything it's loving you too much / Honey, sometimes love means getting a little rough," asserts Harry. Well, domestic violence worked for Eminem and Rihanna...
I could go on, but I won't, because listening to this album, which will sell by the undoubted hangar-load, makes me weary with the weight of decades of lost chances. It is a flimsy, empty, inept shade of a shadow of a darkness dressed up in borrowed clothes several sizes too big for it. It makes me feel like the protagonist of Radiohead's 'Just' video, lying down on the floor too weak to complain any more, filled with contagious inertia, just asking to be left alone. It is not, let us be clear, alright if you like that sort of thing. I don't care if they really, really mean it, and if you buy it for any member of your family you are both demonstrating that you have no respect for them and contributing to the decline of civilization. And all the ceremonies of the world will not cleanse your soul.