After emerging as one of the most exciting rock n’roll bands of the late noughties, White Denim have made a process out of fine tuning their rhythmic Americana sound, veering ever closer to the mainstream with every album, albeit largely staying faithful to their country blues origins. While you certainly couldn’t accuse the Austin foursome of Kings of Leon levels of rock-infidelity, the band’s decision to recruit producer Ethan Johns for their latest record could be a sign that they are reaching out to new markets.
Stiff, White Denim’s seventh studio album, may indeed be the band’s most accessible creation so far, but that shouldn’t take away from its good qualities, of which there are many. Perhaps not as fleshy as 2013’s brilliant Corsicana Lemonade, or as rousing as 2009’s Fits, Stiff maintains the boundless energy of its predecessors while displaying a real willingness to take risks.
Although White Denim never stray too far from their bread and butter of blues-inspired garage rock, their incorporation of elements from other genres works to great effect, while their appreciation of past influences is also apparent. A silky, slow jam like ‘Take It Easy (Ever After Lasting Love)’ has no right to work on a blues rock album but yet it emphatically does, while the funk-inspired current single release ‘Ha Ha Ha HA (Yeah)’ suggests an exuberant new dimension to the band’s renowned, in-your-face riff-churning. Tracks like opener ‘Had To Know’ could be a nod to the upbeat, country rock style of the late Glenn Frey, while a song like ‘(I’m The One) Big Big Fun’ sounds like it could easily have been recorded by Ry Cooder during one of his voyages of Latin discovery.
It’s an exploration that could’ve been taken much further, a 35 minute outing feeling more like a taster of what’s to come as opposed to a mainstream breakthrough. Still, you get the impression White Denim are content with their latest, revitalising efforts.