It seemed that the synthesized indie rock of the mid 00’s had been labeled another short-lived fad. So it is surprising that an electro-fuelled outfit like White Lies, who only entered the mainstream in 2009, have already shifted a million copies of their debut, ‘To Lose My Life…‘. Their second offering, ‘Ritual‘ (released on January 17th) will likely appeal to the majority who fell for their first, but don’t expect any nice surprises.
The Ealing three-piece has unwittingly alchemized its own formula for success, while unashamedly donning their influences like branded t-shirts – Joy Division, Depeche Mode and Interpol are often raised as close comparables. But now it seems there is more concern with crossing over into radio-friendly territory than staying true to their darker roots. Harry McVeigh still croons in his Ian Curtis style and the industrial backdrops, especially in the intro of ‘Turn the Bells‘, add a sense of foreboding gloom – hit the chorus, however, and you have landed in stadium-filling Killers territory, and sadly without a Killers’ hook.
The first single, ‘Bigger Than Us‘, is a suitable taster for the rest of the album, following a dark-verse, big-chorus format, and, it would be fair to say, is a decent attempt at an introductory single. But the real problem here is the matter of White Lies’ unconvincing lyrics: “You took the tunnel road home, you’ve never taken that way for me before” can’t help sound like GPS communication failure. Alarm bells also ring on ‘Holy Ghost’, with what has, so far, been critics’ most quoted line from the album: “You were writhing on the floor like a moth in molasses.” Indeed.
It seems White Lies have taken that risky and gigantic leap from indie hype to arena colossus (the outro to ‘The Power and the Glory‘ was solely created for a stadium anthem). Looking at bands that have played this bold move in the past, such as Kings of Leon or The Killers, and we can clearly hear far more conviction and, quite simply, bigger and catchier songs.
All is not lost with ‘Ritual‘ though. It still shows signs that White Lies could actually be the band they want to be, someday, while Alan Moulder and Max Dingels’ production is a consistent performer, at times giving the album a much-needed sense of purpose. It’s the fact that there isn’t a standout hit that means their dreams of following Kings Of Leon into crowd-filled stadia have been dealt a severe setback. On occasions they come close, but close is never good enough.