White Lies album review – Ritual
Before they released their debut album almost exactly two years ago, Londoners White Lies provoked a level of excitement, anticipation and expectation not seen since the Arctic Monkeys decided to create a Myspace account. And just like the Arctic Monkeys, White Lies’ debut album just about managed to fulfil the bands early promise – shifting over a million copies and displaying the prerequisite amount of composure, maturity and power to suggest White Lies could well become one of the most important bands of their generation.
Naturally, then, hopes for their second album Ritual have been equally high. The release of lead single ‘Bigger Than Us’ helped to raise those hopes – hinting at a more expansive, arena-shaped sound. And while Ritual does mark a progressive step-forward for White Lies, colouring in some of the bleached out starkness of their debut with a fuller, more layered sound, you can’t help feeling just a little underwhelmed. Although trying to pinpoint exactly what makes Ritual a slightly disappointing album is not easy.
There’s certainly nothing wrong during the early stages of Ritual. Album opener ‘Is Love’ slowly swells into a melodic and soulful shoegaze anthem, while ‘Strangers’ and ‘Bigger Than Us’ lift the lid on White Lies’ stadium ambitions with pulsating beats and massive sing-a-long choruses. The albums main failing point though, is that is fails to build on this early promise. ‘Peace & Quiet’ and ‘Streetlights’ sound almost pedestrian following the previous songs, and while ‘Holy Ghost’ (a powerful dance-rock hybrid) does its damndest to ratchet up the tension, it’s hampered by one of Ritual‘s common and annoying themes – bad lyrics.
In places the wordsmithery on show in Ritual is embarrassing: “So tired I’m picking skin/just ’cos it’s something to do” and “Bad sex and ethanol/High scores on Solitaire” are particular stinkers, but there’s plenty more in there that pop up out of nowhere, slapping you out of that cool synth-pop groove before you’ve even got into it.
But maybe we’re being a bit too critical. If anything, Ritual is a step-forward for White Lies and shows that they’re not far behind the Editors in the race to be Britain’s premiere providers of dark, powerful and commercial synth-rock – if only it was as good as we hoped it would be!