The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

White Denim
Workout Holiday Alex Denney , June 18th, 2008 00:00

Alt TextSo that’s how you kick off a rock ’n’ roll record in 2008. Eyeballs straining at sockets like vitreous humour-filled dogs of hate, clawing, shredding, fists windmilling at the gods " for its first half at least, Texan trio White Denim’s ’Let’s Talk About It’ sounds like the spring-heeled horseman heralding the rock debut of the year.

Unfortunately for them it’s also utterly directionless, sucking in on itself completely at the midway mark in a twitching mess of funky percussion and bong-haze atmospherics. For all their big-buckled, Beefheart-wielding-a-pair of-scissors-over-Creedence’s-songbook swagger, White Denim seem to be dancing on the edge of an abyss, making Workout Holiday a bold but not quite realised synthesis of the cerebral and the visceral.

Anyone lucky enough to have caught them play in London back in April might already have guessed as much; live they were an almighty whirlwind to send Dorothy scarpering back to Oz but as the final chords were pranged merrily out it felt like we were still in Kansas and our journey had somehow been a circuitous one. So it goes with Workout Holiday - It’s like being privy to a moonlit seminar on musicology with a man who’s got a half a pound of red meat down his pants - perversely thrilling, but an edifying experience? Not convinced really.

Things work best when their rock ’n’ soul schlock is given wheels and a fuck-off dynamo by Joshua Block and Steve Terebecki’s formidable rhythm section, but they’re also given to a ponderous noodling that puts the skids under their momentum somewhat and throws up the occasional whacked-out dud - ’Look That Way At It’, in particular, is a cut ’n’ paste lark that glancingly resembles Lou Reed’s eighties howler The Original Wrapper.

Theirs is a schtick to die for, certainly, and one with enough elasticity to effectively incorporate the Kinks-ish jaunt of ’Sitting’, ’I Can Tell’’s Trogg-lodyte psych, and ’All You Really Have To Do’, which effectively channels early Beefheart into a puff-chested, strutting rock whole. And yet for all that, would it be missing the point entirely to say John Fogerty won’t be getting hot under his blue collar any time soon?

Put simply, the songwriting on Workout Holiday lacks depth and too often serves as a vehicle for the band’s locomotive chops. Which is a shame, really, because with better fuel to stoke the fires of their fiery soul train, White Denim could end up with runaway results indeed.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.