While the ‘90s are currently experiencing a comeback, it’s safe to say that the ‘80s aren’t quite so fervently revered. Awash with overly sincere, polished pop, banal one-hit wonders, and punctuated by the overarching wave of consumer capitalist culture that Bret Easton Ellis described so viciously in American Psycho. Admittedly, it’s difficult not to look back without at least a slight bit of trepidation. White Lies have proven to be as much a marmite proposition as many of the other acts from that time and it’s true some of the previously mentioned criticisms could be levelled at the Ealing trio. However, they’re also a gentle reminder of the same decade’s finer moments.
‘Friends’, their fourth record, continues their almost perverse obsession with crisp, vibrant synth pop and gnarly post-punk. And while nothing here deviates radically from their already established formula, there's a remarkable level of consistency. Whereas 2011’s ‘Ritual’ and 2013 follow-up ‘Big TV’ were more cinematic, bloated widescreen affairs, ‘Friends’ sees the band at their most concise. ‘Hold Back Your Love’ and the Fiction Factory evoking ‘Summer Didn’t Change A Thing’ are a genuinely blissful pair filled with joyous, glittering hooks while lead single ‘Take It Out On Me’ contains one of the their most memorable choruses.
To begin with, pulsing synth rocker ‘Swing’ is a rather innocuous number until its haunting coda is unearthed, complimented by Harry McVeigh’s typically gloomy but nevertheless emotive baritone. Meanwhile, closer ‘Don’t Fall’, with its twitchy, off kilter percussion, adds another intriguing layer. Even the rudimentary and generic lyrics in ‘Come On’ can’t stifle the band’s anthemic power, featuring a middle eight which recalls their glorious breakthrough track ‘Death’.
Despite this rather impressive collection, there are a couple of straight-up duds. ‘Morning In LA’ and ‘Right Place’ are both archetypal, by-the-numbers ditties and ‘Is My Love Enough?’ perhaps doesn’t justify its six-minute running time. For the most of ‘Friends’, though, this is White Lies doing what they do best. There are huge choruses, soaring, ethereal melodies and that distinctively glistening ‘80s production. However, you suspect their formula may need to be tweaked substantially if the band are to avoid self-parody or burning out in the future.
Words: Luke Winstanley
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