When their first album To Lose My Life debuted at number one in 2009, White Lies were the bright young things of the chart invading indie brigade. That same year they were on the bill, which included Elbow, supporting Coldplay in Phoenix Park, more than holding their own on the day. To Lose My Life was full of dynamic, synth laden 80s FM rock to which frontman Harry McVeigh’s mellifluous voice was perfectly suited. In the meantime, they’ve released another two albums; 2011’s Ritual and 2013’s Big TV. On their latest offering, Friends, they’ve taken over production duties for the first time.
Opener ‘Take It Out on Me’ is a high-energy gallop towards the big open chords that usher in its chorus. With its pulsing bass, cymbal smashing, synthesizer hook and McVeigh’s voice in particular it’s immediately recognisable as White Lies. Just what you’d expect if you’d heard any of their previous work.
A couple more songs into Friends, that immediately recognisable White Lies sound becomes all too familiar. Electro-rock by numbers. Fat synth bass, big drums and ringing open guitar chords are the building blocks. Every song either starts out within the confines of the formula or falls into it eventually leaving this record bereft of any real diversity. With such a uniform sound, it’s difficult to judge each individual song on its merits.
One song that breaks the mould managing to stand out somewhat is ‘Hold Back Your Love’. It’s the one killer synth riff on the record straight out of the Giorgio Moroder arsenal but at just a shade under five minutes long it drags on a little. The subdued cynicism of ‘Swing’ acts as morose tonic to the imposed euphoria of the incessantly uplifting choruses, taking the gong for best song on the record in the process.
Lyrically too, this record isn’t quite up to the standard of its predecessors with most of the tracks peppered with vague, generic themes and phrases.
It’s not that this record is without its merits, not at all. It’s a well written, well produced piece of work from a group of capable musicians. It’s just that all but one or two songs are given the same treatment in the studio. Given that the band started work on Friends without a record deal and so unbeholden to any potential outside influence you have to assume that this is exactly how they wanted it to sound. Each song bleeds into the next and before you know it the album is over with very little divergence. White noise courtesy of White Lies.