White Arrows – In Bardo (Votiv)
Out April 27th 2015
LP / CD / DL
6 / 10
White Arrows have produced a sporadically brilliant album, and we’re not surprised that these guys are tipped for big things.
White Arrows sophomore album In Bardo finally gets a UK release date having already been released late last year in the US. As opener Want a Taste pounds its way from my speakers, stabs of digital distortion accompany the introduction of bandleader Mickey Church’s vocal. This sparse track provides a beautiful introduction to White Arrows brand of off kilter dance pop.
As the darkness lifts its replaced with the uplifting tones of We Can’t Ever Die, a track that is reminiscent of early MGMT and Empire Of The Sun. It’s easy to understand why White Arrows are being tipped for greatness, with tracks like this that will inevitably easily penetrate the public zeitgeist very easily its almost a forgone conclusion.
Yet the album does not flow, there are significant flashes of brilliance especially those seen in Can’t Stop Now. Where Mickey Church and his band produce what can only be described as a beautifully epic track, with its sparse guitar and heavily reverbed vocals. Yet it breaks into this sprawling mass of sound, before shrinking back into its previously sparse state.
Yet at the opposite end of the spectrum, Scream lacks the substance of other tracks on the album, the track feels very flat. There’s very little to it and it doesn’t hold the attention, there is nothing significant to cling on to, the resultant effect being the track turns into background noise.
The album fluctuates throughout and the next track sees White Arrows finding their groove again. Leave it Alone is another distorted edgy, interesting track, there’s pace and excitement to it the thicker guitars help to push the track along and it holds your attention a little more.
Yet the album seems to resurrect itself, as the band begin to channel the early sounds of Passion Pit. Maybe it was a mid album lull but the fluctuations do detract somewhat from the great tracks; Chill Winston though is an uncharacteristically dark track. As they chant “Suffering Suffering”, it’s unnerving in comparison to the upbeat tracks that precede it.
As the album reaches its culmination, the darker themes continue with the first of two-part track God Alert. It is like an acid trip as layers of instrumentation sporadically drop in and out, all whilst. The second you’re transported back to the eighties as the air fills twinkling synths and vocoder style vocals; these two tracks sum up the fluctuations in the album rather well.
This is a difficult album to get your head around, at times its brilliant pop music at others it amounts to little more than background noise. There are flashes of exquisite potential but those are tinged with uncertainty of what’s to come, yet it is still no surprise that these guys are tipped to be big as when they get it right its brilliant.