White Lung - Paradise (Domino Records)

White Lung – Paradise (Domino Records)

White Lung have fully embraced pop on their much-anticipated fourth album, Paradise. Still referred to as a punk band, they once described their music as “pop songs at the speed of hardcore“. The trio, singer Mish Barber-Way, drummer Anne-Marie Vassilou and guitarist Kenneth William, all originally from Vancouver, now live in different cities but maintain their strong work ethic. They have consistently released a new album every other year since their 2010 debut It’s The Evil.  Their sound incorporates fast-changing guitar, impassioned piercing vocals and understated drumming.  The band’s music is accurately reflected by their records’ artwork; bold and colourful but broken and messy.

Barber-Way’s outspoken prose writing and lyrics focus on topics like power dynamics, feminism, abuse, relationships and sex, garnering the band increasing attention. Since her marriage last year, she’s acknowledged that her life now won’t perhaps translate into the best music. She may be somewhat right as Paradise is generally less thrilling, dynamic and rounded than 2014’s Deep Fantasy. Nevertheless, it proves White Lung have cemented their unique sound and naturally grown into a highly listenable brand of punk.

From the outset, it’s clear this album isn’t going to offer anything radically new from their previous work. Opener ‘Dead Weight’ makes little impact while slowest song ‘Below’ is too sickly sweet. However ‘Narcoleptic’ and ‘Kiss Me When I Bleed’ stand out as far more impactful and memorable, with the latter being the first to contain remnants of the band’s former hardcore self. It’s impossible to listen to any White Lung record and not think at some point ‘what the heck is that about?’ It happens here with the chorus line “I will give birth in a trailer”. Key highlight ‘Demented’ showcases the crunchiest guitar parts yet which sporadically lace a dramatic song told from serial killer’s point of view.

Lead single, the slower ‘Hungry’ addresses the struggles of fame and image (“I know everyone fakes for you”). Its video really hammers the point home in which the band amusingly make cameos. ‘I Beg You’ shows off the band’s characteristic fighting-spirit (“I’ll fight back like a full-blown rotten cancer”). On superb penultimate track, ‘Vegas’, the orchestral breakdowns are juxtaposed with a jumpy vocal delivery as Barber-Way spits “too late/they wait/for bait/you’ll see”. The title-track, feeling both claustrophobic and liberated, brings the album to an unfulfilled close.

There’s no doubt about it: White Lung have confirmed their signature sound, mostly accredited to William’s guitar-playing. It’s highly admirable that this band unashamedly self-labels as pop, since they come from an underground culture which traditionally shames such an association.

However, with the trio’s lack of a core bassist (William has covered bass since original bassist Grady Mackintosh left in 2013), this album needed more refining with a stronger rhythm section. Their previous albums saw Barber-Way’s voice perfectly cut through William’s heavy riffs but without the fatter guitar here, parts of it sounds far too scratchy and treble-focused. Whilst Paradise deserves credit for being accessible and easily-digestible, it’s perhaps a little too easy. It doesn’t demand the same attention or challenges that White Lung’s previous records did. All their albums are marked with a certain sameness and while predictability isn’t always bad, it’s not as effective without their typical punch.

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.