White Lung’s 2nd album for Domino is a very good example of a good band getting better. They’ve got better with every release, and even now on their fourth album they’ve found ways to incorporate hardcore punk, metal, pop-punk and alternative rock into one tight package. At 30 minutes long, it’s a blistering ride, with plenty of 2-3 minute songs that condense their message – especially vocalist Mish Barber-Way’s – into bitesize fireballs of declarations and warnings. This is the furthest they’ve ever pushed themselves, with White Lung writing the best songs they’ve ever written while simultaneous discovering new avenues to work in.
White Lung are in the business of not faffing around with their time. The first song is ‘Dead Weight’, which Barber-Way explained was about miscarriages. It’s surgical and cold in the way Barber-Way sings ‘A pound of flesh lays between my legs and my eyes’, as if she’s trying to disassociate a dead baby from something physical and organic in order to overcome the grief that would come with a miscarriage. It’s never a baby – it’s dead weight. Obviously, it’s a method of coping and not something that anyone would do to themselves in a normal situation, but it isn’t a normal situation and White Lung are trying to express that. It’s one of their more traditional songs, with Kenneth William and Anne-Marie Vassiliou nailing down the hardcore act like nobody’s business. It’s actually really refreshing to see an underground band approach pop music without grabbing synths at every opportunity, instead finding new ways to play and structure their songs with what they already have. If anything, they’re mastering their instruments more.
‘Below’ is still the standout song from Paradise after being released as the final single before the album was released. We explained it more fully in our review, but it feels like a culmination of everything White Lung have conquered, with Barber-Way criticising the commercialisation of beauty and its value. When we said how White Lung are not reaching for the synths, ‘Below’ is a prime example of this. Even though the first twenty seconds does sound like some particularly angelic synths, it’s actually just William blending his more traditional style of playing with something new. It’s like when St. Vincent said she liked playing a guitar like a synth and a synth like a guitar. ‘Sister’ is another standout, with Vassiliou outperforming William on the drums and encourage the band on to be as aggressive as possible. That’s not a problem for Barber-Way, who sings from the point of a serial killer who let her sister be raped and murdered. She sings the torn emotions – ‘We will cement you into garbage / I swear I miss all of you’. The murderer tries to explain why they let it happen and tries to distance themselves from it, but in the end you can only hate what they did.
White Lung have continued their streak, making a sweet step in their progression. They’ve become bigger, no doubt, but they haven’t sacrificed anything and have let success come to them, not vice versa. One of my only complaints is that occasionally Barber-Way, who is the centrepiece of the band and their mouthpiece, is lost underneath William’s screaming guitar, and while he deserves more credit than he currently gets, on songs such as ‘Vegas’ or ‘Paradise’, one of White Lung’s few love songs, she becomes overwhelmed by William dipping into his endless supply of hooks. Paradise is tight, and rightly so. This is what punk can be when it’s done right.
Funnel Recommends: Below / Hungry / I Beg You