Around this time two years ago, with a 2nd place position in BBC’s ‘Sound of 2009’ and a number one album already under their belt, White Lies seemed to have emerged out of nowhere. Although it had no lack of fans, their debut To Lose My Life also had an abundance of critics who questioned their authenticity, mainly due do their drastic departure from the light indie-pop of their previous incarnation as Fear Of Flying.
White Lies are not the first post-punk revivalists to fall victim to such criticism, with bands such as The Bravery and more recently Hurts receiving a similar response from the music press. However, like Hurts, what White Lies may lack in authenticity they certainly make up for in style and their commitment to imitation. Whereas Hurts channel the likes of pop new romantics like Ultravox and Tears For Fears, White Lies owe more to bands like Echo & The Bunnymen and Joy Division.
Two years on, not much has changed. Ritual is a return to the darkness, serving up another monochrome mix of synthesizers and sadness. Once again it is the brooding baritone vocals of lead singer Harry McVeigh that really give the album some character. Lyrically the recurring themes of love, loss and death surface a little excessively and sometimes with diminishing returns. Despite the heavy themes incorporated into them, lyrics like “hold tight for heartbreak, buckle up for loneliness” (found amongst the mundane melodrama of ‘Street Lights’) are left sounding hollow and clichéd. However what they lack lyrically, they make up in sound with the more sonically expansive and melodically anthemic tracks like album highlights ‘Bad Love’ and lead single ‘Bigger Than Us’, with huge choruses that tower above the bleak blandness that makes up a lot of the album.
On the whole, it is the more upbeat (both emotionally and sonically) moments like ‘The Strangers’ that create more of a spark than the slow burners like ‘Calm Down’. Sadly, for the majority of Ritual, their brooding brand of melancholy is just a bit monotonous with the essential sense of urgency displayed by fellow post-punk revivalists Editors on their debut The Backroom mostly absent. Ritual may succeed in its attempt to create a bleak landscape of haunting vocals and heartbreak, but it also manages to be bland, forgetful, and void of sincerity.
From James Smyllie.