Maybe it goes back to the Beatles, or maybe Kid A really did change everything, but accelerated artistic evolution has long been synonymous with greatness. A band is daring if they take a sharp left-turn away from their trademark sound at a most commercially inopportune moment; but while stagnation is a very real concern, a supposedly bold reinvention can also come across as capricious and overly contrived.
Perhaps there is less pressure to change on the bands that ply their trade in the margins, but Cults just released a good second album that is much the same as their first, Beach House practically live for musical stasis, and Texas’ White Denim have released five albums in five years that you’d be doing well to distinguish between. The latest of which is Corsicana Lemonade.
The band’s well-rehearsed brand of Southern boogie-punk remains intact, although a certain softness has replaced the urgency of early career highlights such as ‘Let’s Talk About It’ and ‘I Start to Run’. They still sound remarkably tight, even if redoubtable musicianship is largely blanketed by their distinctive tone – a seedy buzz of double-tracked guitars slinking from one song to the next. However, the liquefied riff of ‘Limited by Stature’ and the rough and tumbling descent into opener ‘At Night in Dreams’, respectively hypnotic and exhilarating, number among a few moments to make you sit up and take notice.
Ultimately, it’s just impressive to hear a band commit to themselves. The fact that they work concurrently to (and with such breezy ignorance towards) the music industry at large is endlessly charming. They’re comfortable with who they are, and that they refine their sound with such prolificacy and consistency is a credit to them. With that said, Corsicana Lemonade‘s best moments break from the template, working at an amiable pace with some lush touches that defy the band’s punk roots.
‘Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)’ has a languid two-stepping bounce to it that wouldn’t sound out of place at a New Orleans second line if it had some Bayou brass thrown on top, while ‘New Blue Feeling’ has a rich, mellow texture and a dream-like pacing to break up the surrounding tracks, which would otherwise risk fading into one another. The undoubted highlight, though, is closer ‘A Place to Start’, a potential rival to D‘s ‘Street Joy’ as White Denim’s best song yet.
Taking more so from Marvin Gaye and the best in lovelorn 70s soul, ‘A Place to Start’ is an unashamedly romantic and slightly hackneyed number that is wonderful all the same. The instrumentation is relaxed; strings and brass respectfully make their mark from the background before a gorgeous riff enters into the fray, sounding so heartwarming and so sweet that it would probably taste like melted chocolate. It eventually swells, taking the song by the hand and weaving towards the album’s end as that familiar buzz belatedly echoes, taking a secondary role in recognition such beauty and allowing it enough room to unfurl.
‘A Place to Start’ hints at some unspoken wonder that Corsicana Lemonade otherwise hides for fear of disrupting White Denim’s harmonious anonymity. This album is not a musical revolution; indeed, it would be a stretch to deem it more than a slight evolution for White Denim. Happy to dig further down into their furrow, unencumbered by pretension or dizzying ambition, they are laudable for their passive iconoclasm. Diamonds in the rough, they remain, but their rough is most valuable.