The news that White Lung, the Vancouver punk quartet last heard from making a right old racket on the excellent Sorry, had signed to a proper label caused a little trepidation in the music world. I found the alarm all a little baffling. After all, it’s not like they were signed by Simon Cowell or LA Reid.
Domino Records seemed like the perfect launch pad for a band to catapult itself to a wider audience without having to sacrifice any of the integrity of its music, and so it has proven. With Deep Fantasy, the knife may well be cleaner, but it is also sharper and still has the capacity to cut through you. This is twenty-odd minutes of melodic punk fury, its message delivered by a righteous front woman who is as compelling as it gets.
The album opens with its heaviest song, the cobweb-blasting “Drown With The Monster,” which begins with a sinister riff that then drops an octave to tumultuous effect. Any doubts about a drop in intensity evaporate the moment Mish Way delivers the first of her lung-busting vocal contributions, and within a couple of minutes the whole thing has descended once more into a punishing, exhilarating breakdown. White Lung isn’t messing around here. All of Deep Fantasy’s ten tracks come and go at a blurring speed, and there is no “slow one” or acoustic change of pace to spoil the fun.
The band’s capacity for huge riffs is also matched by their ear for a hook. An album with such a focus on a single pace for its duration needs some serious tricks elsewhere to stop it from becoming a repetitive one-trick bore, and White Lung achieves this by shifting the tone of their songs subtly and delivering huge sing-along and shout-along moments. “Face Down” is perhaps the album’s most purely melodic moment, with a chorus that features the wonderful put-down “The dumb won’t make a sound when you want them” as Way delivers a middle finger to critics without forgetting the substance.
Lyrically and vocally this is her show. These songs reveal anger but also a sense of defiance and real character that give her plenty of substance beneath the bluster. When she spits the words “I expect nothing from you” on “Lucky One,” they sound like they come from a place of both pain and celebration. Her delivery is the sound of someone laying all of her cards fearlessly on the table, never more so than on Deep Fantasy’s closer, “In Your Home,” which comes complete with an intro that sounds like a sped-up version of “Boys Of Summer” of all things.
This is far from a one-woman show, though. An intelligence and virtuosity is evident from the whole band, particularly Kenneth Williams on guitar, whose dextrous riffs played at breakneck speed carve fascinating textures into the likes of “Just For You” and the standout “Snake Jaw.”
It’s all over well before the 25-minute mark, but Deep Fantasy has so much going on here that it sounds like a complete work, with no corners cut and no expense spared on the superb production, which combines crispness with power. White Lung doesn’t do anything particularly new, but they do their thing so well it’s hard to imagine how it could be done much better. And you know it’ll slay live.
Tickets for White Lung’s forthcoming show at Los Globos in Los Angeles on July 23rd are currently available.
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