White Lies’ new album To Lose My Life…, debuting at No. 1 on the UK Album Chart, left me wanting a lot more – not more music, more material to write about. The genre: alt-rock. The members: three angel-faced boys dressed in dark, somber attire.
When I first started listening, I was feeling optimistic. The lead singer has a pretty good voice, cute, baritone and British, similar to Brandon Flowers of The Killers, which is joined by a quick, energy-filled beat. As I continued on my trek through the album and began to check out the lyrics, however, I noticed this first song was called “Death” and came to the conclusion that these guys take themselves a little too seriously. Every song is similar, with the voice range varying little except for slips into a strained higher octave. All of this is accompanied by little variation in the guitar range or drum rhythms, little variation in the dark, boring lyrics and frequent repetitions of the last line of each song over and over and over again.
While listening to the second song, “To Lose My Life,” I was reminded strongly of “You Spin Me Right Round (Like a Record)” by Dead or Alive, a.k.a. bad but kind of fun ’80s music – but in this case, accompanied by morbid lyrics.
The fourth song, “Fifty on our Foreheads,” has incredibly enlightening lyrics: “I know you’re sad I’m leaving/ so this may hurt a little/ but girl look from your window late tonight/ you think my heart is frozen/ while yours is slowly grieving/ you’ll see your love start burning in the/sky.” Truly illuminating.
Next comes a ballad-like piece, “Unfinished Business,” which begins in a kind of cool manner, starting with just vocals, that are joined by high, ominous organs and finally drums. However, it gets pretty boring in its repetitious structure with the “you said this and then I said that and then I said this” paradigm.
The last song, “The Price of Love,” also has an interesting beginning, with high piercing strings followed by the heartbeat of a drum and later by menacing guitar chords. This is one of their darkest songs, a ballad about a murder in which the husband is ultimately unable to pay the murderer’s ransom. It follows the same tedious pattern as many of the other songs by ending with the repetition of the last line – here, the title – over and over again, although the last dramatic notes of a trembling string instrument did add an interesting effect.
The band changed their name in 2006 from Fear of Flying to White Lies in order to represent “something seemingly innocent” with “very dark undertones.” It seems a bit laughable how seriously these guys take themselves, spending half a year of intense work on the first five songs of the album and practicing for three months before their debut gig. The intense darkness of their material is pretty overwhelming, and The Guardian’s Maddy Costa described seeing the band live as similar to living through “a horror movie in which a pre-pubescent choirboy, radiating innocence, becomes possessed and starts singing in a rumbling bass dredged up from five fathoms deep.”
The album, however, is not terrible, and in fact if you can overlook the morbidity of the lyrics or how little variation exists, you might find yourself enjoying it. If they revved up their groove with more harmonies, interesting instrumental solos and more appealing lyrics, I think the seriousness with which they take themselves could be well-founded. Until then, I’m glad they know what age range they should be going for: “We want 15-year-olds to go away thinking we’re their favorite new band,” said the band.