White Lies, a band on a constant nostalgia trip to the mid-80s, have returned with their third effort, Big TV. After their highly disappointing Ritual in 2011, it’s certainly good to hear the tunes have been tightened up and refined. The sum of the parts is still the same – drums clatter with pacey hi-hats and echoing snares, the bass rumbles and drives with little flim-flam, the guitars and synths fill out the mix and Harry McVeigh does his best to imitate Tom Smith’s imitation of Ian Curtis. There are some suitably driving and “epic” moments that could sit alongside U2’s better work, such as the chorus on lead single There Goes Our Love Again which does its utmost to uplift, no doubt earmarked by an exec as the token “lighters in the air” moment. Perfectly competent stuff from a popular band using a relatively individual style.
Now I’ve got the quotes for the CD case out of the way, here’s the bad stuff. It’s repetitive; McVeigh has once again failed to come good on lyricism with cringers like “And you can get me work/But I can’t work for free/I’ve got a room downtown/With a bed and a big TV” within the first 2 minutes of the album; it’s repetitive; the band still hasn’t figured out they’re not big enough to be writing songs this bombastic, and as such the melodrama often falls flat; it’s repetitive; the melodies and hooks are good and memorable enough but this certainly isn’t living up to “White Lies’ best yet” as Allmusic might have it; and it’s really repetitive. The songs just don’t have much contrast and consequently much together.
Though maybe I’m judging Big TV too harshly – it’s certainly a decent enough album, and its singles will sell by the shedload, but if I wanted bombastic 80’s indie rock, I’d go ahead and listen to bombastic 80’s indie rock instead of an imitator that missed the train 30 years ago. For what it is it’s worth a listen, it maintains enough music to back it up, and it principally delivers on the wow factor. With a sound destined for the arena it is decidedly marred by its own pretensions. Not as bad as their last LP, but White Lies aren’t the Echo and the Bunnymen they think they are.
Released on 12/8/13 on Fiction