London post-punk band White Lies were known as Fear of Flying and consists Harry McVeigh, Charles Cave and Jack Lawrence-Brown – Tommy Bowen and Rob Lee play with the band live. Having been compared with everyone from Editors to The Killers; the boys’ formation was born out of frustration. They came together in 2007 after the feeling the material being written for their original band was not suitable – White Lies have been described as dark but with plenty of uplift and hopefulness. By 2009, the band were prominently featured in many end-of-year polls and tipped for big things. The debut followed soon after and whilst receiving mixed reception did earn the band a loyal following. In the ensuing years, the material has become stronger and the group more galvanised and unique.
Big TV was their last album in 2013 and went to number four in the U.K. charts; the most melodic effort from the band, it was still the sound of White Lies. Following the story of a couple who leave a provincial area for the big city – it looked at equality in relationships; something that prominently features in many White Lies tracks. Critics noted how engaged and defined the band sounded – their previous record, Ritual, lacked that to an extent. Definitely rooted in the present: the band employed retro. elements to create their most rounded and layered album; one that spilled with ideas and samples. White Lies have always recalled some of the 1980s but ensure they do not reproduce other acts and sounded like a throwback. Always evocative, modern and singular: Big TV defined and underlines this; their best-rated and most successful album to that point.
The band’s ten-track album is the band’s fourth album and singles Take It Out on Me and Come On have given a little flavour of what to expect. Those tracks bring to mind Big TV and its tones: that same ambition and focus from the group and a definite shift from their earliest work. Friends find White Lies not only looking at universal themes and everyday dilemmas – it seems like a more personal work when compared with the likes of Big TV and Ritual. You get that tangible sense of personability and raw emotion emerging in every track; a band that have seen life moving on and not being thrilled about it.
Take It Out on Me races into view with a galloping synth. line and sturdy, punched beats. Worried eyes and being raised and troubles are brewing in the soul. Maybe directed at a lover or troubled friend: the chorus’ upbeat tones revolve around McVeigh being used as a punchbag – either verbally or physically. Perhaps speaking to his heart and soul: the hero is in love with the “feeling of being used” – one of the troubling sentiments from the album. Composition-wise, one feels it could be bigger and more energised in the chorus – to back and elevate McVeigh’s voice – but perhaps the band opted for a sense of restraint to allow the lyrics and vocals a chance to campaign on their own terms. Morning In LA looks at heavy feelings and the rush of the streets. A feeling of chaos and disorientation arrives in a song where friends (of McVeigh) are disconnected (“I’m left hanging on”). Little touches of ‘80s synth. masters – Joy Division most prominently – come out in the rushing, colourful composition – so many different ideas and notes melted together in loving harmony.
Spacey, intergalactic electronics bring in Don’t Want To Feel It All. The chorus, like Take It Out on Me, deals with some hard and emotional aspects but counterbalances it with a breezy and elliptical composition. Distress, burden and the loneliness of the city are addressed with plenty of originality and maturity; the lyrics themselves cause some intrigue and second-guess – “No, I’m not going to break your heart” suggest a girl could be in the firing line or left disappointed perhaps. In terms of emotional relief and redemptiveness; there is a little bit of breathing room here and there but a lot of the songs have their glasses half-empty. Summer Didn’t Change a Thing boasts another big and atmospheric composition and yearns for the “heat to heal my blues”. Whether distressed by a long-distance relationship or an absent friend: there is a sense of pining and emptiness; the season and convivial climate not helping to balm the deep wounds. The band have said how the album was influenced by the changing nature of friendships. Charles Cave, the group’s chief lyricist, noted how (as a child) you would not see friends for a couple of weeks and be deeply concerned: when an adult, you might not touch base for six months and think nothing of it. Whether (friends) move or get married, there is always that sense of transition and change – not always welcomed and easy to accept.
Swing looks at a hole in the heart and “Nowhere to go”. If the barrels of laughs are stuck in transition, you get enough reflection, rumination and personal revelation from a band not shy to bare their soul and unleash their inner-pains. In terms of lyrics; the band have crafted a stronger set than Big TV but there is little evolution from that album – this is true of the compositional dynamics and sounds which seem very familiar. Friends documents departed brethren and a sense of detachment: it can feel very heavy at times and there is little relief or light to be found through the album. Human League, Depeche Mode and Editors make themselves known in various parts; the band are masterful at concepts and common themes – Friends’ stories and concepts will ring true with many of those listening. Despite the fact there are some samey numbers and a lack of light (in the lyrics at least) there is that solid base that is hard to fault. Ice-cool synths. and deep, emotion-laden vocals; big and memorable songs and fresh inspiration.
Friends is available from 7th October through BMG