White Denim - Live At Village Underground, London

Texan rockers bring the groove and fury…

Village Underground is a fine venue for rising bands to prove their merits. The sound is noteworthy, the space intimate yet quirky, and there is still an air of being in on something not quite yet ‘spoiled’ when attending a performance there.

Despite promoting their sixth album ‘Corsicana Lemonade’ (and selling out two nights at tonight’s venue) Austin’s White Denim still mainly fall into the bracket of exciting unknowns, especially this side of the pond.

They’re the band your mate’s brother got you into. Even if the name rings a bell, their sound is such an experimental gumbo of garage rock, tripped-out folk and downright funk that the ‘unknown’ element excitedly remains even for the dedicated listener. The White Denim sound is something you can’t quite pin down with one word.

The headliners take the stage at nine and don’t mess around. The production on their recorded material doesn’t quite prepare you for the sonic attack delivered, frontman James Petralli and guitarist Austin Jenkins sharing licks with a serious swagger. 

The fretwork is intricate, every scale under the sun is whipped out, and it’s certainly noodling. But the question is: is it self indulgent? Thankfully, just when things look like they’re going to enter Mars Volta territory, the band slips back into a groove so fine that all is forgiven.

Tonight sees them play with the ferocity of a punk band, three-minute song after three-minute song thrown out to the tightly packed crowd. Petralli’s voice may be sweet and soothing, but his face’s contortions when letting loose has him resembling none other than Tom Waits. Bassist Steven Terebecki bobs around the stage looking calmly content with the sheer racket he’s unleashing.

‘Corsicana Lemonade’ (Clash review) is mined, as is previous effort ‘D’ (likewise) and many catalogue cuts – but a less-is-more approach would benefit the band, as two hours of sheer guitar-centric noise can wear the best of them down, and few fans slip away during the last 20 minutes.

Still, if rocking too hard for too long is the only real criticism this reviewer can manage, then White Denim clearly killed it.

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Words: Sam Walker-Smart
Photos: Rachel Lipsitz (website)

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