I once read with interest an article on White Lies’ record collection. Their favourite albums included dEUS’s ‘The Ideal Crash’ as well as selections by The Blue Nile and Talk Talk; all of whom are known for intricately crafted music with a healthy balance of melodic complexity, atmosphere and subtlety. None of this is a clue to White Lies’ third album ‘Big TV’ which boasts an album title as subtle and as understated as Mark ‘Spike’ Stent’s shiny production.
The booming title track picks up where the last album left off with White Lies still the modern day equivalent of Midge Ure-period Ultravox; huge drums, power chords, the swish of European-flavoured synths and Harry McVeigh’s stentorian vocals (which reach Roland Orzabal’s levels of self-importance for ‘Mother Tongue’). White Lies do try for the minimalist approach on occasions, namely for a couple of interludes named ‘Space I’ and ‘Space II’ but they’re essentially links to the next song, whilst ‘Change’ (the inevitable slow one at the middle of the album) is still, unsurprisingly, ridiculously epic with its choral samples and OTT shimmer. Nevetheless there is gold to be found here in the trio’s quest for stadium synth pop’s holy grail. ‘First Time Caller’ digs its nails in from the moment its synth hook starts and the chorus, straightforward and brash though it may be, makes it one of their strongest songs to date. ‘Getting Even’ thunders along impressively and ‘Be Your Man’ is the nearest latter-day Ultravox imitation here.
Suffice to say, if you came to a White Lies album looking for introspection, turn around now but arena-size synth pop is clearly what suits them best. There’s no way near enough substance and variation to make ‘Big TV’ a complete album but amongst the loudness, foghorn vocals and melodrama, there are again good songs to be discovered.
Ultravox, Tears For Fears