White Lies - To Lose My Life
There's a part in M83's ludicrously tasty Graveyard Girl where the music breaks and the titular heroine delivers a suitably overwrought soliloquy, “The cemetery is my home. I want to be a part of it... I'm fifteen years old and I feel it's already too late to live. Don't you?" It's simultaneously laughable and heartbreaking. Graveyard Girl will LOVE this record. For GG and her maudlin siblings White Lies will be phenomenally important. Why, even this coffin dodger can't help but be quietly inspired by these latest dead souls and be transported back to my youth. Here come the young men (again), so paint it black and don't interrupt the sorrow...
To Live My Life mostly matches the hype. It's consistently entertaining, often brilliant and heroically earnest in intent. It's a formulaic record undoubtedly, from Jack Brown's hypnotic Stephen Morris drumming to the ceremonial organs and subtle spidery guitar motifs, but ultimately it establishes a real 'character', a little empire. But please dress appropriately, as an album it's more murder ballads and funeral waltz than ballroom blitz. Personally, I would've swapped some of the dry ice tension for a few more bangers like Death or To Lose My Life, but hey-ho.
Death is still my bride and broods like Garbo 'til its euphoric firework burst, a release as ecstatic as music gets without requiring a mop and bucket. After crawling to No52 last year, let's hope it gets re-released into the community and takes its deserved position in the Royal Box of Pop. The punchy title track is a worthy opponent too and the scenario of an Indie Jim Jones bellowing to our youth “Let's grow old together and die at the same time!!” is ingeniously perverse. Farewell to the Fairground is primed to trail in these giants' steps and be the next single. Good luck, it's one of the weaker tracks.
The other glorious treasure is 50 On Our Foreheads (cult of Bullseye?) which glides like Bowie's Heroes and at this point is their Motorcycle Emptiness, their Live Forever (Die Forever?). It's the golden ticket to save them from eating out of bins. But the tiara for 'Song Most Inspired by Atmosphere 2009' goes to From The Stars. It's romantic, luxurious, reassuringly expensive and when its OTT climax collapses into the sea it's honestly breathtaking.
Stylistically, it oddly veers into early '80s New Romantic territory and even Billy Idol. Particularly the thunderous E.S.T or the uplifting, delirious A Place To Hide, “I need a place to hide...before the storm begins!” With all the bass gallops, synth splashes, death-disco drums and muted guitar, some of the songs wouldn't have sounded out of place on Duran Duran's debut alongside Careless Memories or Planet Earth. Strange as it seems, this is a good thing.
“I picture my own grave 'cos fear's got a hold on me”. Lyrically that sums up the whole album. Bassist / lyricist Charles Cave (yes, really) is clearly an Anne Sexton student and acts effectively as the Nicky Wire to Harry McVeigh's Bradfield. Key words? Death, dying, died, buried, requiem, funeral, “the quilt of darkness” anyone? Nuthin' but a 'g' thang baby. Yup it's goth, albeit with a little 'g'. Unfinished Business even had me thinking of Elliott Smith's last moments dealing as it does with squabbling lovers and a knife in the heart. But for those of us who favour a cerebral massage with their maladies, this hits the spot.
There are weaknesses; Nothing to Give is dull, Fairground is so-so. Harry should also stray from the deep valley Barry White (Harry White? Harry Black!) voice before he becomes his own parody. Although he is also spookily reminiscent of Nick Cave when he used to sing about dwarves and scare the crap out of me. Also with such a weighty theme as mortality, there is a feeling that these are boys doing a man's job. It'll be interesting to see how they develop. Like Mansun, etc before them there are fears they may become a footnote to a bigger, better band. But then if this album says one thing it's enjoy life, it ain't gonna last. Oh and always bet on black.
If I could offer some advice to the Class of 2009 it would be to conjure up some magical mystery. No smiling in interviews, no appearing dressed as hamburgers on kids' TV, no befriending other bands, remember the mantra of Spinal Tap “the majesty of rock, the mystery of roll”. In our information age, when was the last time you saw a guitar band with actual mystery? Wombats? Fratellis? Didn't think so. Bowie, Prince, Dylan, mystery's an undervalued commodity. White Lies, don't blow it.
TLML does suffer in comparison to the pioneers they so clearly wish to emulate. It's no Unknown Pleasures, no The Smiths, no Turn On The Bright Lights, no Boy, but yes it is better than Pablo Honey. At least you can't say they don't make 'em like they used to. Even if it (whisper it) occasionally underachieves, it's a solid first round and fills me with hope for the future of intelligent 'indie'. The kind that started a fire in me that led me here, writing this for you, and still buzzing.
Just stay away from Corbijn and Eno though, right? That's been done to, erm, death.