White Lies - To Lose My Life

London trio's debut makes good on hype...
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Domestic indie hopes in 2009 seem rather pinned to White Lies’ mast right now, the London trio carrying a great weight of expectation upon their shoulders.

‘To Lose My Life’, the debut album from the band formerly known as Fear Of Flying, emerges through a thick fog of buzz, the kind that only descends around this time of year. (Don’t worry, it’ll lift by March.) The record’s release date of January 19 gives it a decent chance of significantly denting the album chart, and that’s regardless of how it’s received amongst critics.

Which is likely to be with mixed results.

That White Lies have attracted a considerable amount of comparisons to acts preceding their appearance, before amassing a substantial catalogue of work, should tell you something about their sound. It’s one that regards imitation as flattery, a clutch of these songs coming on like a gloom-laden Editors, or The Cribs had the Jarman brothers been obsessed by Depeche Mode as kids. Produced by Ed Buller and Max Dingel, whose past credits include Glasvegas and The Killers, the album’s high-gloss epic-feel aesthetic will click immediately with fans of the aforementioned artists, as choruses soar and frontman Harry McVeigh’s vocals send listeners spinning into black holes of melancholy.

But the band’s lack of a standalone identity causes problems – each and every effort here is easily placed next to a track penned by another, and as soon as melodies are identified and tones assimilated, enjoyment of White Lies on their own terms can prove a struggle. Previous single ‘Unfinished Business’ is the one most evocative of The Cribs, seemingly muddling ‘Our Bovine Public’ and ‘Don’t You Wanna Be Relevant?’ with the Lost Boys soundtrack. McVeigh’s performance occasionally treads seemingly closer-than-by-chance to Paul Banks, but it’d be unfair to accuse the vocalist of deliberate impersonation given the Interpol man’s own similarity to Ian Curtis and Richard Butler.

When these thoughts – of acts White Lies are following a similar orbit to – cloud the mind, it’s a mighty ask to allow ‘To Lose My Life’ in without asking it to wipe its feet of the detritus it’s picked up on its way to this point. But break through the doubts and suddenly the record begins to shine, despite its compositional tone of comparative bleakness. Though atmospherically indebted to 1980s acts like Tears For Fears and Echo & The Bunnymen, this is a very modern British indie record – full of lyrical doubt and instrumental nervousness. It’s an album that reflects the time in which it was created while also offering nods to forefathers demanding respect. What it lacks in a sense of sincerity – McVeigh’s lyrics are rarely laced with the honesty and vulnerability of the best acts of this ilk, instead booming from the speakers like a goth town crier – it makes up for in instant impact: not one track here couldn’t be a single. Seriously.

Perhaps that’s more through post-production tweaking than pre-recording design, but either way it’s clear White Lies have refined their Fear Of Flying potential into a sound that’s appealing to many a market – Radios 1 and 2 will have no problem playlisting this pop-savvy doom-mongering – and also capable of filling the largest arenas this country has to offer. It’s a debut dressed as a third album – huge in sonic scope, and rich in sing-along potential. When it crawls, as on ‘From The Stars’ and the oddly Ultravox-recalling ‘Fifty On Our Foreheads’, it does so in the way Glasvegas made so profitable in 2008. When it heads for the dancefloor, Friendly Fires had better watch their backs: ‘Farewell To The Fairground’ and the title track (and next single) are more than capable of lighting up any indie club. It’s on these sprightlier tracks that White Lies exude an energy to suit their youth.

Although it opens with ‘Death’, ‘To Lose My Life’ is actually likely to be the beginning of a most-productive existence for this trio as White Lies. They might have crashed and burned their planes in a previous guise, but post-resurrection most evident foibles have been masked by a relentless and overpowering aural assault on the senses, triggering emotions rooted in nostalgia, that as good as marks them as Number One Artists / Mercury Prize Winners / The Next Biggest Band In The World (delete as appropriate). 2009 is theirs for the taking, if they’re up to the task.

Get bogged down in the parallels, though, and White Lies will do less for your mood than a wintry weekend break in a wind-lashed Kingston upon Hull.

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Get tickets to White Lies' February tour alongside Florence and the Machine, Friendly Fires and Glasvegas HERE. Themselves a huge tip for 2009, find White Lies' own tips for next year on ClashMusic.com HERE.

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