Music Review: White Lies, Big TV

Published on August 20th, 2013 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, New Music Tuesday, Reviews |

By Less Lee Moore

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The critical and commercial success of White Lies over the last few years should come as no surprise to those who’ve followed the band’s career closely. For their newest album, Big TV, White Lies are once again working with Ed Buller, who produced their debut To Lose My Life . . . The production on Big TV is more restrained than it was on Ritual, but that only allows the songs to shine more brilliantly. It feels like both a blending of the band’s first two albums and a further development of the band’s signature sound.

The lyrics on Big TV are subtle and finely sketched. They’re not necessarily from the viewpoint of the protagonist, and at times, possibly from multiple points of view. Singer Harry McVeigh’s voice is, as usual, rich and commanding, and the way he follows the music and not the scan of the words ensures that the songs provide rewards with repeated listening.

Opening track “Big TV” sounds like a JG Ballard novel: “True it’s a beautiful view / But you know they’re gonna set it on fire / When they feel like something new.” There’s a guitar riff after the bridge that threatens to turn into a cheesy solo, but instead, becomes part of the fabric of the song, defying expectations of what a radio-friendly pop song can be.

“There Goes Our Love Again” is a delightful single and instantly memorable. Don’t let the catchy melody fool you; there are great lines in here, such as “Hushing out the fear and alarm / I know you’re open and armed / Just trying to pick the feelings undone.”

The chiming keyboards in the intro to “First Time Caller” are later cleverly repeated as electronic violins. You can almost see the starry skies above you, a lovely complement to the lyrics. Even the guitars sound like they’re reverberating in desert canyons, heightening the feeling of loneliness. “Mother Tongue” is another particularly visual tune (“cinnamon hills and moonshine”) that evokes Tears For Fears’ “Mad World” in its chorus without sounding like a rip off.

With “Getting Even,” Big TV‘s universe expands dramatically. The reconfiguration of the lyrics in the chorus and the change to sustained vocals is astonishingly good, especially paired with hard-edged guitars. “Change” is an instant, timeless classic, recalling the visuals of “First Time Caller,” but intensifying the feeling to cosmic heights of splendor, with lyrics that are both raw and refined. “And this is only the beginning / Although it feels just like the end,” sings McVeigh, and those who’ve suffered from heartbreak will understand the insightfulness of such a couplet. The way the vocals fade out before the music is like trying to remember a dream.

“Be Your Man” is a romantic epic of a song with soul-stirring drums and guitars. It establishes—then dismantles—the chorus and bridge, rearranging them into something at the end that makes your pulse beat faster and commands you to sing along.

Sounding both retro and utterly modern, “Tricky To Love” creates an uncanny mood. It’s darker than the other tracks, its sparkling piano motif contrasted with a heavy bass line and sardonic lyrics (“My heart’s red imitation leather”). The profound, exquisite wordplay in “Heaven Wait” is supported by the music; the bass lines and drums are the murky depths and the vocals and keyboards are the light piercing through the surface of the ocean.

The last tune on Big TV, “Goldmine,” is so perfect it makes you cry. Its deeply affecting lyrics are paired with a devastating bridge and chorus, both of which get broken down into their most basic parts, and just when you think it can’t improve, there’s a haunting vocal effect at the end that pushes it into the sublime.

Big TV is a rare and precious joy, an album with which you can fall deeply, passionately in love, being thrilled when the songs are stuck in your head and counting down the minutes until you can listen to them again and again.

Big TV is out today in the US through Harvest Records and in Canada through Universal Music.

Tour Dates:
Aug 24: Reading Festival; Reading UK
Aug 25: Leeds Festival; Leeds UK
Sep 07: Berlin Festival; Berlin DE
Oct 01: Opera House; Toronto CA
Oct 03: Bowery Ballroom; New York US
Oct 04: Bowery Ballroom; New York US
Oct 05: Paradise Rock Club; Boston US
Oct 07: Metro; Chicago US
Oct 09: Great American Music Hall; San Francisco US
Oct 10: El Rey Theatre; Los Angeles US
Oct 12: Corona Capital Festival; Mexico City MX
Nov 07: Paradiso; Amsterdam NL
Nov 08: Effenaar; Eindhoven NL
Nov 09: LMH; Cologne DE
Nov 11: Gibson Frankfurt; DE
Nov 12: Theaterfabrik; Munich DE
Nov 13: Gasometer; Vienna AT
Nov 15: Komplex; Zurich CH
Nov 16: Magazzini; Generali Milan IT
Nov 17: Lucerna; Prague CZ
Nov 19: MTP; Posnan PO
Nov 20: Stodola; Warsaw PO
Nov 23: Sentrum; Oslo NO
Nov 25: Vega; Copenhagen DK
Nov 27: Grosse Freiheit; Hamburg DE
Nov 29: AB (Sold Out); Brussels BE
Nov 30: AB Brussels; BE
Dec 01: Trianon; Paris FR

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