White Reaper – White Reaper Does It Again (Polyvinyl Records)
In that most bodacious of celluloid classics, ‘ Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey‘, the main protagonists happen upon an encounter with Death, The Grim Reaper himself. If you haven’t seen it, let me assure you it’s a modern portrait of suburban life. Anyway, the general premise is that Bill and Ted must defeat The Reaper in a series of games such as Battleships and Twister. However, every time they succeed the rules are changed, Death moves the goalposts. They can never, ever win.
I feel a similar tale is being exacted with White Reaper, the Louisville four-piece who rather shambollically careered into our lives in 2014 with their eponymous debut. No matter what they do, they can’t win.
Any album which starts with a wall of guitar followed by “One two three four five six seven eight” is either going to be about to follow a well-worn path or the band have just booked themselves a residency at the Early Learning Centre. You see, there is nothing new here, absolutely nothing. Every chord, every inflection and every nuanced pose has been recycled so often they should be about to receive an award from Greenpeace. Nope, White Reaper can’t possibly win.
And yet…and yet. It is widely regarded that we live in barren times for guitar based fare, it doesn’t take much to get the music tabloids salivating over their hummus and puy lentil salads these days. Palma Violets provided us with evidence that one good single now equates to a front page spread regardless of how little substance lies behind. So where do White Reaper fit into the New World order?
This is an album of Ramones/Jay Reatard/Spector-inspired cut-offs…with a keyboard. Yes, a bloody keyboard. White Reaper are a dirty no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll band who thrill you for all of 34 minutes before making you want a shower to cleanse yourself. Apart from that damn keyboard…it’s like a bottle of antiseptic handwash sitting next to the sublime slime and debauchery. It has no place being there at all.
That aside, the album is a joy to behold. This is music deeply rooted in the past with manic guitars, hooks and sing-a-long choruses aplenty. What’s not to like about the overuse of the word ‘baby’ and a man appealing to his beau “would you be my girl”? No, this is old-fashioned, good time rock. It’s pretty relentless too but if you don’t need to put in a power ballad…then don’t!
White Reaper toss in references from 50’s rebellion, through 60s girl band melodies and 70s glam stomp to create the least original concoction you’ll hear this year but boy, does it taste good. It’s an album about girls, about looking for love, about losing love and probably about losing your virginity too for all I know. These lads are here to tell you how Louisville, Kentucky was, is and always will be.
The downside of course, is whether the post-millenium landscape is really tailored for the likes of White Reaper. This is the age of Pitchfork, whereupon music has to challenge and be ultimately worthy of note and accolades. It is not enough to strap on your Fender and bang out half an hour of harmless, youthful angst. ‘White Reaper Does I Again‘ is fun and your Gran will probably love it whilst telling you endless anecdotes about how it reminds her of how she met a bloke called Dennis at a fake American diner in 1958.
If Bill and Ted discovered that society can never win against the Grim Reaper, then this bunch of latter-day Reapers can never win against society. They can never win. White Reaper will always be labelled as revisionists, plagiarists or a third rate Ramones tribute act. Take my advice, ignore the nay-sayers, grab yourself a girl and a Bud and party like it’s 1976.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.