Performance by White Denim – Album Review
By David Schuster
Performance, the latest album from Texas rockers White Denim, wears its 1970’s heart on its sleeve. Indeed, it couldn’t be more redolent of that era if it came cycling down your street on a neon orange Raleigh Chopper, wearing a Budgie jacket and swigging a fizzy drink comprised entirely of sugar and E numbers. Excellent, if you like that kind of thing – which I do.
This musical heritage becomes apparent mid-way through the opening piece, as the chugging bass line of ‘Magazin’ is overlaid with a spacy sax-type solo worthy of early Roxy Music. With simple but enigmatic lyrics over tight production, it’s a great start to an assured collection of songs from a band who clearly know they are doing what they do best. The vibe continues with ‘Double Death’, which features a funky wah-wah guitar and keyboard, and could easily have been taken from a 70’s detective series, such as Shaft. Between these comes ‘Performance’, the title track of the album, with its tumbling guitar riff and frenetic vocals; one of the stand-out numbers from a very strong set.
Some tracks are made for driving to, and ‘Moves On’ is one of those. It’s perfect for clocking up the miles on night-time roads, though the repeated words “Did he put the moves on” make it clear that it’s not about transport. Both Michael Hunter’s warbling synthesiser and James Petralli’s echoing lead guitar sound are very reminiscent of my all-time favourite driving tune; ‘Motorway City’ from Hawkwind’s Levitation. Indeed, Performance features some nice psychedelic moments; at the end of ‘Fine Slime’ where it breaks down into sonic mayhem and again at the very end of ‘Good News’, the closing number. Both of which also remind me of the veteran space-rockers.
‘It Might Get Dark’ was chosen as the second single. It’s easy to see why, as it could be a lost archive song from glam rock icons T. Rex. I’m sure this is an intentional homage as it has lyrical references to seminal Bolan vocals in its use of the words “it’s alright” and especially “boogie”. It’s got an infectious rhythm and blues guitar riff that make it instantly engaging, good for filling the dance floor at a party.
One small niggle: At just under 33 minutes it’s very short by CD standards. Possibly the resurgence of vinyl releases will make this commonplace again, but it seems too soon as the record reaches its conclusion. ‘Backseat Driver’ is another fast-paced work out for both vocalist Petralli and bassist Steven Terebecki, whilst the album finishes on a mellow note with ‘Good News’, featuring an upbeat acoustic guitar sound and poignant, yearning lyrics.
So, don your faded jeans and strut down the street. Get yourself some White Denim. Pun intended.