The first time I was exposed to White Lies was on the Fourth of December 2008. They were supporting Glasvegas at the at Wolverhampton’s Wulfrun Hall. After a short support set I knew I was left powerless to buying their debut album, To Lose My life – an album that made a lasting impression on me, even to this day.
Since then they have mastered the art of tweaking each album enough to ensure their music is still fresh and interesting, without losing that sound that saw them rise to dark indie-rock prominence in the late noughties. Friends continues this impressive trend.
With a three year absence from recorded material prior to the release of opening track ‘Take It Out On Me’, expectations have been set high for their ‘comeback’. The more anthemic sound of this track sets a precedent for the rest of the album to continue the slow but sure move away from the haunting harmonies of their early work.
You could be forgiven when reading the track listing for presuming that this will be a look into the deep dark depths of Harry McVeigh’s mind. In actual fact, songs like ‘Summer Didn’t Change A Thing’ and ‘Is My Love Enough’ play out as a view through the impeding darkness and into a possible ray of light in the distance.
There is no doubt that the ever building instrumentals, perhaps most impressively displayed on ‘Morning In LA’, is the most distinguishingly different element of this album. Although the sound may be very different, the diluting of sombre lyrics with frivolous keyboards and guitars is almost Smiths-esque.
This crescendo building is a recurring theme throughout the album, but this is not to say it is overused. Although the songs that follow have a similar pattern of building to an emphatic finale, the differences in mood, tempo and riffs make every track distinguishable and unique.
The highlight of the album comes through ‘Don’t Want To Feel It All’. This serves up the perfect balance of jangling guitar and keys with the droning emptiness of Mcveigh’s vocals. Without wanting to make them sound dated, it can be said the aforementioned Smiths-like quality of disguising angst is joined here by a recognisably ’80s inspired sound. Somehow, in 2016 they still make this not only listenable, but fresh sounding.
With the discrete changes they have deployed with every album, it’s only upon proper reflection you realise how uplifting and charismatic this album is in comparison to their debut. Although 2008 White Lies will always hold a special place in my heart, this album is undeniably the greatest showcase of their musical maturity to date.
Friends is released on 7th October via BMG.