White Lies | Ritual

Fiction (2011)
By REYAN ALI  |  January 11, 2011
2.0 2.0 Stars

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If the bombast of Ritual is any indicator, nights out with White Lies must be dramatic, humorless affairs. Life-altering monologues will be recited, voices will be raised, glasses will be smashed, blood will be spilt. Leading this po-faced approach are bassist Charles Cave's overwrought lyrics, as interpreted by Harry McVeigh. The poor singer/guitarist gets saddled with lines like "If I'm guilty of anything/It's loving you too much," "You went where the horses cry/You've never taken that way with me before," and "Hold tight for heartbreak/Buckle up for loneliness." But instead of deflating their portent, McVeigh plays up the gravitas, sounding way too much like Brandon Flowers in overbearing arena-rock mode. (Killers/White Lies comparisons may be stale, but in this case they're apt.) The Greater London band fare better on the music side, but not by much. Their synth-inflected post-punk has populated arenas before, and Ritual comes pre-beefed-up for mega-audiences (thus explaining — but not justifying — the singing), with the band's frosty atmospherics often losing their way. The most authentic moments are the smaller ones, as when McVeigh gets to recite such peculiar poetic fragments as "a shower of discipline" and "Bad sex and ethanol/High scores in solitaire." Among the other alluring details: the melody of "Strangers"; the percussive pulses running beneath "Turn the Bells"; the exquisite end of "Peace & Quiet." But the overarching ideas are enormous, like the chorus that warns, "This is bigger than us." Therein lies the problem: Ritual is so grandiose that it rarely has room to breathe.

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