Texan psych rockers, White Denim return with their ninth studio LP, Side Effects. The four-piece, hailing from Austin, have been prolific over the past decade, recording and touring on a near constant basis.
Following last year’s indie-leaning Performance, the guys take a sharp turn towards psychedelic garage with flavours of Woodstock infused throughout the 29-minute run time.
Side Effects has the band at their jamming best; the record feels spontaneous throughout with various breakdowns into jazz, funk and even a bit of glam rock. No one’s breaking the mould here, neither are they playing out a pastiche. Influences are worn proudly, re-interpreted for 2019.
Album opener, Small Talk (Feeling Control), is a statement of intent for the record – psych-wobbles and looping krautrock riffs reminiscent of The Sonics meeting early CAN. The band is frenetic as the timbre, sleazy bass and keys take us to the track’s climax.
On Hallelujah Strike Gold, things take a turn for the funky as echoes of Money by Pink Floyd turns the same cynical eye on greed culture – “Amen, get rich, you’re either young or you’re old, baby, life is a bitch” – while on Shanalala, the spirit of Malcolm Mooney drives the urging vocals, panting over the garage rock backing.
The record takes an interesting level-up on acoustic break, NY Money. Traces of Doves are present throughout the seven minutes; lush synths, bell-like drops of sound and long hazy riffs close out the track. Over the trippiest of productions, James Petralli implores us to dream of clarity and a narcotic free view of what’s important: “Hear much clearer when the music go quiet, sing out your guts ‘cause you got the nerve to try it.”
A bird’s cooing opens a quick instrumental interlude of off-kilter, Village Green-esque eccentricity on Out of Doors before another vocal-free jam, Reversed Mirror, whisks us back to the kraut-core of the record. A looping glam stomp showcases Greg Clifford, Steven Terebecki and Michael Hunter’s prowess on the drums, bass and keys respectively. At the halfway mark, the song breaks down in to some super-tight jazz playing, which adds to the spontaneity felt throughout the album.
So Emotional evokes the madness many find in the aftermath of a breakup. The wonky thought process of the verses is broken by the lucidity of a melancholic chorus, “I don’t want to be so emotional but I lose control.”
The guitars are revved back up to full throttle on Head Spinning, a two-minute slab of MC5 and The Damned. It’s a welcome bang to the head before Introduce Me concludes the album with a Sgt. Pepper on acid-dub at Woodstock trip.
Supporting the aforementioned Doves as well as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds this summer, White Denim clearly know their audience. They know when it’s right and how far to go with their more experimental leanings without alienating their core fans. Side Effects is quick, dirty and a bit interesting in all the right places.