mon 15/07/2024

White Denim, HMV Forum | reviews, news & interviews

White Denim, HMV Forum

White Denim, HMV Forum

An electrifying night with Austin's blazing psychedelic jazzers

James Petralli: 'devastatingly supercharged'© Michelle Roberts

When these blazin’ psychedelic jazzers first landed here from Austin in 2007, there’d already been four or five years’ worth of herky-jerky cod-post-punk-reviving going on, way past the point of overdose, but White Denim were different, and obviously worth making an exception for.

Initially a trio, comprising James Petralli (guitar/vocals), Josh Block (drums) and Steve Terembecki (bass), their early gigs here were explosive, crystallizing the genre-transcendent ideal of the original post-punk era, blasting through everything – 1960s beat, funk, Tropicalia, Krautrock, folk – with Texas-fried abandon, and with energy levels which would humble The Clash.

If you had to pin one catch-all reference on them, it would be restless SST faves The Minutemen, only one louder (at least!), but as Petralli channeled a massive sound by looping himself ad hoc, they had that electrifying, seat-of-the-pants White Stripes excitement about them, with the considerable bonus of a white-hot rhythm section in tow.

The pleasure is in rolling through this landscape, following the intrepid sound to a breath-taking crescendo

Though inaugural mini-hit "Let’s Talk About It" scored them TV-ad exposure, White Denim have since studiously circumnavigated zippy routes to the big time, preferring just to subsist comfortably in their Airstream-style trailer on the Austin fringes, sculpt a few cool records without ever gunning for hits, and hone their fearsome chops yet further on the live stage. To that end, in late 2010, they added a second guitarist, Austin Jenkins, freeing up Petralli to front 'Denim with extra directness.

So, here in mid-’12, the Denim cult has mushroomed of itself, totally sans hype aggression, to the point where they’ve filled the Forum, solely on word-of-mouth gig-going repute. The quartet hit the stage with benign vengeance, launching a 15-minute blitz which reprises the opening tracks of 2011’s D album, supercharged, no pause for breath, but also, even amongst their intensely drilled rhythmic chop-and-changing, full of lyrical guitar licks. Barely eight or 10 minutes in, "At the Farm" sees Petralli and Jenkins already pickin’ as freely as a hoary old prog band, but with a fierce ascetic discipline which brooks no lame onanism.

Another furious 20-minute tune pile-up, taking in, amongst others "Shake Shake Shake", is as driven as vintage DC hardcore, while adventuring into the craziest imaginary lands (could "Bess Street" be Gangstarr meets Can?) – but always with Petralli’s sweet sense of melody. "I’d Have It Just the Way We Were (Again)", which lyrically celebrates ’Denim’s own momentary alchemy, highlights just what exquisite, supple songcraft lurks within their gleeful headlong rush.

Banter and other vaudeville tactics are granted no foothold, as brain-bustingly versatile sticksman Block clatters into another intricately structured sequence of numbers. The pleasure for WD buffs is in rolling through this landscape, following the intrepid sound to a breath-taking crescendo, suddenly to land unannounced, blinking but euphoric, in a favourite song. So it is for your correspondent with the arrival of "Mirrored and Reverse", a highlight from 2009’s "Fits", which borders on Henrdrix-esque exploration – wild, colourful, turbo-motored, fearless.

There soon follows another devastatingly supercharged run, remodeled from the first half of "Fits", which culminates in flat-out classic "I Start to Run", the anthem of ’Denim’s refusenik response to the media adulation which initially greeted them in Blighty, turning that hyper-anxiety into a fabulous, stuttering release.

Though Denim’s music is complex and seemingly ever-changing, there’s sufficient hip-swinging down the front to coalesce into a moshpit for the climactic riffage of "Let’s Talk About It". The Kinks with an "Antmusic" beat – if only all sets could end this way. Though Petralli and the boys refrain from all aspects of showmanship bar the playing, Terembecki’s leather tifter and some exhilarated au-revoirs, they depart as beloved song-and-dance men. In a pop era of genre repetition, their curiosity, freedom and imagination are all the warmth a listener could ever wish for.

Exquisite, supple songcraft lurks within their gleeful headlong rush


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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