The Whitest Boy Alive are a funny lot to define. Helmed by Kings of Convenience vocalist and soloist Erlend Ã˜ye, this previously electronic group has forsaken sequencing in favour of non-binary instruments for album number two.
Their stripped back sound has its pros and cons. Instrumentation here is as smooth as brushed steel: vintage keyboards nonchalantly bop to the key of cool and jazzy while bass maintains a old-school disco pulse and drums hang loose, happy to chill until dance floor inhabitants are ready to bust a 70’s style move. It’s on this foundation that, in contrast to the earthy melancholy of Kings of Convenience, Ã˜ye’s vocals sound unconcerned with anything apart from where more funk could be quickly sourced in the event of a shortage. All in all, this is an album that’s one cool customer.
This unflappability runs the width and breadth of the album, and it’s double sided- it either leaves you pleased to bask in its relaxed vibe or fails to raise your pulse above ‘easy, baby’. The placid nature of Rules occasionally seems like an impenetrable blanket of cool, you could almost envision Napoleon Dynamite casting aside Jamiroquai’s -Canned Heat’ in favour of -Courage’- a mellow relative of The Rapture’s -Get Myself Into It’.
But there’s a lot here to appreciate. It is indeed a funky album that not only bears repeated listening but also successfully adds little electronic flourishes to economical jazz, disco and funk. Theirs is a clean, quirky groove full of direct lyrics adverse to drastic statements, employing instead a lingering, smoky subtlety spiced with the odd seductive funkathon- and they don’t even break a sweat doing it.