Album Review: White Lies – Ritual

By on Monday, 17th January 2011 at 12:00 pm

Let’s go back to the end of 2008. Long time ago, wasn’t it? Who on the music scene was everyone buzzing about? I remember five acts in particular. There was the La Roux vs. Little Boots argument, which has pretty much ended with La Roux proving victorious on both sides of the Atlantic despite Little Boots winning the BBC Sound of 2009 (she’s become a nonplayer at this point pretty much). Then there were Friendly Fires, Glasvegas and White Lies, all of whom appeared on an NME tour of the UK together and interestingly, they all at one point pretty much disappeared after their initial success, leaving us to wonder where they’d gone. Yet all three have releases this year: XL has reported Friendly Fires is finishing on their second album and Glasvegas is currently previewing new material while legging it around Scotland, but it is White Lies who has the earliest release with ‘Ritual’, being released today.

Because of the way music has become digitalised and the album format is not as emphasised or revered as it once was, it’s the singles that get the most attention (and probably dictate album sales), for better or for worse. In the case of ‘Bigger Than Us’, the first single from ‘Ritual’ (reviewed previously on TGTF), White Lies (probably unintentionally) set their own bar too high. It’s as gorgeously grand and massive sounding as ‘To Lose My Life’ was in late 2008. I could feel shivers down my spine the first time I heard it. But like the other songs when compared to the beauty that was ‘To Lose My Life’ on their debut album, the rest of ‘Ritual’ never maintains that height of grandeur.

‘Turn the Bells’ has driving drums but isn’t a standout otherwise. ‘Bad Love’ sounds like an attempt to return to ‘To Lose My Life’ but doesn’t quite get there. ‘Come Down’ has programmed beats; why is this necessary? They have a drummer. ‘Is Love’ begins unearthly but thankfully turns into a more upbeat number – go go crashing guitars, go go synths! Speaking of synths, they shine on ‘Ritual’, bringing much needed levity to what is a pretty dark affair – see ‘Peace and Quiet’, one of two tracks the band played live at Maida Vale for Steve Lamacq (you have until Wednesday 19 January to catch this session and a short interview with the band on iPlayer – fast forward to the third hour). This is definitely one of the best tracks on the album after ‘Bigger Than Us’. It starts off innocuously like the theme to ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ but becomes something much more: a highly atmospheric piece of music with an impressive chorus.

Make no mistake, there are some really lovely moments. ‘Holy Ghost’ has a killer groove, but really, it’s a song about a prostitute. But in the same way I thought some tracks on ‘To Lose My Life…’ were unnecessarily depressing, I was disappointed in much of the mire that the band delivered this time around. I’m not saying I was expecting White Lies to morph into happy, peppy popsters. Not at all. I like that they’re willing to put it all on the line, their hearts on their sleeves. ‘Bigger Than Us’ proves that they know how to write a sweeping, emotional anthem. I just wish there were more songs like it on ‘Ritual’. This is more of a grower type album – it may not be immediately great on first impression. Give a couple good listens before making an opinion on this one.


Ritual is available now from Fiction Records.

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[…] you have forgotten – and you would be forgiven for doing so, seeing that the band’s second album ‘Ritual’ was released in January 2011, nearly 2 and a half years ago – the White Lies’ modus operandi […]

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