Album number six, As I Try Not to Fall Apart is not afraid to deal in big themes. There are ruminations on existence, consumerism, superficiality and the futility of living. It does so over galloping drums, hands-in-the-air synth pop and bass grooves that would get the dead dancing again.
Across its ten tracks we are transported via Harry McVeigh’s emotionally charged vocals and a swoon-inducing mix of Bowie-esque plastic soul and Robert Smith-inspired introspection. If you’re going to take your cues from the best and all that… This is very much White Lies daring to go a bit pop. The immediate catchiness of opener As I Try Not to Fall Apart combines melodious ascending keys, funky bass and the (somewhat) hopeful refrain, “This isn’t my time to die, you’re never really going to die”.
Like many of their contemporaries, White Lies aim for somewhere between perpetual gloom and elation. While they consider the lunacy of society’s suicidal obsession with materialism, they can at the same time remind us that it’s better to appreciate the beauty of a moment. They simultaneously mock the notion that money equals respect (I Don’t Want to Go to Mars) while being cogniscent of the great equaliser of the afterlife: “You paid your way to heaven on maxed out credit.” Much of this record provides a caustic reminder to slow down and appreciate the real value to be had from life; its overarching message to its listener that one should live rather than simply exist. On the soundscapes of Breathe, McVeigh both laments and advises: “Spinning in this lonely world / you gotta put in the right time”.
The Chic-like funk of Step Outside is another example of this record’s conscious parallel between Thatcher’s 80s and the present day. Much of As I Try Not to Fall Apart feels like a reflection from the perspective of those being left behind (“I’m drifting around in time / I’m creeping through the dust of my life”) or who truly experience the burdens of getting by, governed by those who couldn’t care less about them. There are moments where the music really does the talking with the band levelling their sound up to widescreen proportions. These are songs with vibes which would equally be at home in sweaty underground gig spaces as they would roaring out of ginormo-stadium speakers. Frantic, rock ’n’ roll guitars (Roll December), ambient piano and even a saxophone makes an appearance on finale, There Is No Cure For It.
Full of dark, brooding lyrics, As I Try Not to Fall Apart is sometimes witty with a heavy dash of melancholy. Charles Cave’s bass, whether on guitar or keys drives the album as a cohesive piece of work, while the vocals and guitars are as previously noted, super reminiscent of the Thin White Duke. It’s an album which will have people dancing in delirium to the sound of their own insignificance.