White Williams at the Middle East Upstairs, January 12, 2008
SHORT FUSE: White Williams’s set ended
before really taking off.
The young Brooklyn-based White Williams wears his influences on his sleeve, a proud love of chugging krautrock grooves and ’80s synth-pop. His debut album, Smoke (Tigerbeat6), has been generating critical buzz for its combination of icy sweet melodies and quirky, ragged-edged production and the occasional foray into noisy abstraction that betrays his roots in Cleveland’s DIY/noise scene.
On Saturday night, he kicked off his first headlining tour with a show at the Middle East upstairs featuring himself on synth, vocals, and laptop plus guitarist Hayes Shanesy and bassist Tyler Drosdeck. Their set started auspiciously, with a mellow, jangly instrumental that gave way to “Headlines,” the catchy, Eno-esque opening song from Smoke. Yet in spite of an appreciative audience primed to dance to every synthetic drumbeat and æthereal melody, the set never coalesced. The dreamy “Route to Palm,” with its windblown surf-rock guitars, was enjoyable indeed. Even the finest moments, however, lacked the eccentric charm and grit that, in his recorded work, set Williams apart from similarly hyped neo-new-wave bands like Vampire Weekend. Perhaps it was just an off-night. Early on, he complained of feeling under the weather, and a scant 40 minutes in, after promising to play some covers, he unplugged his synth and cut the set short.
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