White Lies – BIG TV
Buy: BIG TV
It may seem like a long time ago, but it was only in 2008 that White Lies were being stalked by record labels and the music press alike – who touted them as genuine indie-rock superstars in the making. In 2009 their debut album To Lose My Life… was released, and while it didn’t exactly set the world on fire it did hint at something special to come from the West London trio. 2011’s follow-up album Ritual was where the general buzz of excitement and anticipation around White Lies well and truly fizzled out. Like the debut, it wasn’t a particularly bad album, it just wasn’t as good as their early promise had led us to believe. We wanted deep, powerful and edgy synth-rock with a sleazy 80’s underbelly, but what we got from White Lies’ first two albums were some great singles wrapped up in slightly bland and underwhelming albums.
Which brings us onto BIG TV, an album that arrives with more than a whiff of the make-or-break about it. The music world has moved on a lot since White Lies were a promising new band, and patience has begun to wear thin for that ‘great’ album they may or may not be capable of.
If BIG TV really is their make-or-break album, then White Lies certainly attack it with gusto. The opening title track is a magical, life affirming epic with a tasty chorus and hooks aplenty. It also does a good job of introducing the album’s concept about a young woman from Eastern Europe moving to London for a better life – “You can give me work / But I can’t work for free / I’ve got a room downtown / With a bed and a big TV”.
The similarly epic and satisfying ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ follows, which brings the emotional heart of the album’s concept out into the open early on – that of a relationship in the midst of a power struggle. This is wrapped in a sumptuous synth-led track that rises and falls with Harry McVeigh’s vocals and is as powerful and affecting as anything on To Lose My Life and Ritual.
From a strong opening, though, BIG TV descends into familiarly disappointing White Lies territory. Like their previous albums, they are let down by an over-reliance on big synth hooks that border on the lazy and the occasional cringe-inducing lyric. ‘First Time Caller’ is an almost perfectly crafted bad White Lies song, with derivative and forgettable synth melodies and terrible lyrics: ”She said I was a first time caller / But a long time listener / I’ve been waiting a while / To talk to you / I want you to love me / More than I love you / Tell me if that’s something you can do”.
‘Change’ and ‘Tricky To Love’ are equally ponderous and uninspiring, and sound like the work of a band grasping for ideas and relying too much on their influences. On the other hand, ‘Mother Tongue’ is a pretty decent pop song that works with the overall concept of the album (”But if you have forgotten / Your precious mother tongue / What do you think your mother / Would say of what you’ve done / And if you can’t remember / That place you call home / Or having trouble placing / Who’s calling on the phone””) while weaving in some nice Tears For Fears references. ‘Getting Even’ is classic White Lies – brooding, menacing, soulful and epic – with sharp strings and a chorus that just keeps on growing. ‘Be Your Man’ stands out as a good song that isn’t traditional White Lies fare, leaning more on Echo And The Bunneymen influences before the prerequisite chorus drags you back into their gloomy and emotional world.
So, the verdict on BIG TV is much the same as with White Lies’ first two albums: when the stars align, they are capable of absolute brilliance – frustratingly though, they still seem incapable of harnessing this talent and producing a consistent album. The hope is that they will be afforded time to reach a peak, but with today’s increasingly fickle music industry that seems unlikely.