Album Review: White Lies – Big TV

By on Monday, 12th August 2013 at 12:00 pm

White Lies Big TV album coverFrom the chart success of their first two albums, it’s clear White Lies are the kings of the post-punk anthem. With their new album ‘Big TV’, Harry McVeigh, Charles Cave and Jack Lawrence-Brown again proffer up their signature doom and gloom lyrics accompanied with feel good guitars and synths, with mostly positive results. The main problem ‘Big TV’ suffers from is the same problem that plagued both ‘To Lose My Life…’ and ‘Ritual’: while there are some huge songs on here that are obviously going to be released as singles and will bring crowds to their feet, the rest of the songs don’t reach such lofty heights, and there are two interludes included in this set of 12 tracks that don’t really serve much purpose.

‘Big TV’ was produced by Ed Buller, whose other most recent and high-profile production work was on Suede’s amazing comeback album ‘Bloodsports’ released in March. Whether it is a compliment on Buller’s expertise specifically or not, there is no denying that lead singer Harry McVeigh’s voice has never sounded better, confident and clearly able to fill stadiums with its strength. The album begins with the title track, hitting you with typical White Lies’ bombast. The introduction of the song conjures up of great ‘80s New Wave tunes, before a driving rhythm by drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown and lonesome guitar chords are banged. The synths continue the New Wave theme, as McVeigh intones desperation, insisting, “bring me to the hand of fate / the river or the new arcade”. The hopelessness of fighting against the march of progress, the existence of trash and garbage in our lives and what we make of it all, wondering where real life begins and the fantasy inside one’s mind ends: these are larger than life themes that seem to fit well with the painting of the astronaut on the album’s cover.

Early giveaway track ‘Getting Even’ (“wrestling with conscience”) and single ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ sound quintessentially White Lies, with the aforementioned shimmery synths, crashing guitars, and punishing beats. They’re just tailor made for the Radio1 audience, shiny with pop sensibility that will assure their mainstream success. (You can grab ‘Getting Even’ for free from this previous mp3 of the day post, and watch the promo video for ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ here.) Lyrically though, they’re not bassist Charles Cave’s best.

For that, you need to venture to ‘Change’, at the lucky number 7 position. Now this song is likely to stand the test of time the same way as Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Already Gone’ does. To be honest, it’s the breathy, nonconfrontational version of ‘Already Gone’: when you’re listening to it, it’s not hard to imagine you’re floating on a soft, fluffy cloud, or even in heaven, even while the sadness of a man who is telling his love to be brave even though it’s time for them to part is tearing your own heart apart. This is a track I certainly was not expecting from White Lies and I don’t know how this will fare among fans, but it’s absolutely beautiful. If they don’t release ‘Change’ as a single in the next couple of weeks, they’ve missed a trick.

So it’s all the more jarring for ‘Change’ to follow up with ‘Be Your Man’, which is upbeat but somehow it’s missing heart. (This is also the fate of ‘Tricky to Love’, as well as album closer ‘Goldmine’.) I get the message: the voice in the song doesn’t want harm or trouble to befall his lover and he wants to be her man when an emergency happens. Err…ok. The music that goes with it doesn’t seem to match the sentiment either. At least the instrumentation that goes with ‘First Time Caller’ is suitably epic for the song’s plot, which I’m gathering is either about phone sex or a call girl service. The wishes for “a little hope out of nothing” and for someone to be patient and truly to listen to them are something wanted by both people on the line. The lyrics from the chorus of “I want you to love me / more than I love you / tell me is there something you can do?” sung in a sweeping style by McVeigh couple nicely with an equally sweeping, gorgeous instrumentation.

After such beauty, you have to wonder what they were thinking with the confounding existence and placement of the two interludes, named unimaginatively ‘Space i’ and ‘Space ii’. While I can appreciate the desire to do some short instrumental pieces, these two do nothing for the album and act as strange, out of place bookmarks that you’re likely to skip if you buy the entire LP. For the proper way to insert interludes into an album, see Cave Painting’s ‘Votive Life’. Then there are some lyrics like the opening of ‘Tricky to Love’ – “My love, changes with the weather / my heart, red imitation leather” – that are truly cringe-worthy and make you wonder how it was possible these songs were conceived by the same people who wrote ‘Change’. With the highest of highs and lowest of lows, ‘Big TV’ brings you moment to savour, but also moments of confusion.


‘Big TV’, the third album from London trio White Lies, is out today on Fiction Records.

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7 Responses

12:01 pm
12th August 2013

New post: Album Review: White Lies @whiteliesmusic – Big TV:

3:28 pm
13th August 2013

[email protected] was right @whiteliesmusic is a singles band. new album ‘Big TV’ has huge highs but low lows too @tgtf

3:28 pm
13th August 2013

RT @theprintedword: [email protected] was right @whiteliesmusic is a singles band. new album ‘Big TV’ has huge highs but low lows too http://…

[…] ‘Big TV’, the band’s third album, was released in August. Read my review of the album here. […]

[…] mean one thing: White Lies were back, touring their new record just released a few short weeks ago, ‘Big TV’. Harry McVeigh, Charles Cave and Jack Lawrence-Brown brought their misery-laden set to the Main […]

[…] band’s latest show in town to support their third album, 2013’s ‘Big TV’ (reviewed by me here), would be well attended. It just wouldn’t be sold out. White Lies has the benefit (or handicap, […]

[…] several hugely successful tours traversing our continent. Returning 4 years after the release of ‘Big TV’, frontman Harry McVeigh revealed they had the common worry “that no-one would show up”. They […]

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