They go so close at times, White Lies, and seem to tear themselves down just as they appear to have done something great. Consider ‘Bigger Than Us’, first single from ‘Ritual’, for example. An initially subdued bassline, lyrics of metropolitan alienation (“love flickered in the city of lights…I was tired and cold from the window, you’re cold and nothing has changed”) and one of their craftily melodic chorus lines which makes their big sound swing and cut deep rather than bluntly piledrive all emotion and lose any significance. It really is a good single, but the doubts have to start creeping in when you hear lyrics like “You went the horses cry / You’ve never taken that way with me before” which make literally no sense and are even more embarrassing for their supposedly deep meaning which the epic backing conveys. But they don’t. They mean literally nothing.
The travesty continues with ‘Strangers’: “I pressed my ear to your chest / And heard something personal / A Whisper that knew my name”. It’s tempting to think that Harry Mc Veigh has been imprisoned and forced to listen to terrible Lionel Richie records, or has just suffered some awful blunt head trauma, to come up with stuff like this but it seems unlikely. ‘To Lose My Life’ was a decent album in its naivety but added synth doth maturity not make and the added production, most noticeable on ‘Streetlights’, does little for the timbre of the track but fills up the sound to Van Halen levels of stadium rock.
Comparisons to Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen and even Editors are unfair to the minimalism and strategic approaches of these bands whereas White Lies seem to hope that by turning up all the dials and shouting absurd things like “You were writhing on the floor / Like a moth in molasses” or “Felt love last night / For the first time in a long time / Feels like coming home to stay”. Variation appears only in the opening 30 seconds of some tracks, the attempted darkness of ‘Is Love’ and the (predictably) more downbeat beginning of ‘Come Down’, but skip to two minutes in and it all sounds the same. Forgive the boys somewhat, they do try and they have here an album not horrible to listen to, but in terms of inspiration and creativity it falls flat on its face.