When White Lies emerged at the beginning of 2009 with ‘To Lose My Life’, they generated equal amounts of suspicion and respect. For on the one hand they brought doomy electro-rock to the masses but to a more cynical audience they had mutated from a cheery indie pop band in to a very stylised, very mannered version of Interpol or Editors.
Much of the album sees White Lies sticking to the previous formula. Lyrically, listening to ‘Ritual’ is still a hoot. “You were writhing on the floor like a moth in molasses” is, you would hope, supposed to be tongue in cheek but much better is the less awkward “Hold tight for heartbreak. Buckle up for loneliness”. The widescreen pop of ‘Strangers’ and ‘Bigger Than Us’ certainly won’t offend their youthful audience but won’t win over new fans either.
Yet, for all that, this is an album which demonstrates evidence of significant progression on a musical level. It’s there in the way ‘Is Love’ moves from Harry McVeigh’s portentous words in to a dance-inflected elecro-groove. ‘The Power And The Glory’ benefits from eerie subtlety whilst ‘Streetlights’ and ‘Holy Ghost’ are swish and stylish but kept edgy by aggressive rhythms. For ‘Turn The Bells’, McVeigh’s vocal reveals refreshing signs of vulnerability beneath the usual stentorian chanting. It has a moving chorus too. Kudos too for the closing ‘Come Down’, which safely negotiates the grandstand finish hurdle with some aplomb.
Rather than make themselves sound more real and raw, White Lies have turned the other way and succumbed to the synth-driven anthems of A-ha or Ultravox. Surprisingly, it suits them rather well and ‘Ritual’ is more addictive than some naysayers might care to admit.