A truly eye-opening debut album...
Jason Gregory
22:14 5th January 2009

On YouTube, the video for White Lies' latest single, 'To Lose My Life', has created a mild frenzy among its watchers. The debate ranges wildly from the band's likely influences – "a bit of the Bravery", according to one user, ironically called SweetSweetInterpol - to the bowl of tomato soup eaten by drummer Jack Brown. "Great tune. Great band. Great live. That tomato soup is looking a bit watery though, isn't it?" asks Garner2092, to which Napier 99 replies: "I thought that - LOL."

It says a lot about White Lies that the viscosity of a bowl of soup can generate such intrigue. Despite being on the radar for almost a year, the West London band, who formed from the ashes of a middle-of-the-road teenage indie group that dressed a bit like PJ and Duncan, have steered away from divulging too much information about themselves. Instead, they've relied on a series of high profile TV performances – including a show-stealing appearance on Jools Holland's Later… last autumn – and festival slots to do the promoting for them. Everything, from their all-black stage attire to the refreshing lack of promotional paraphernalia that accompanied early singles was kept to a minimum to emphasise the music.

This approach has instilled an almost overwhelming expectation on their debut album. After all, there have been few musicians – particularly in this decade - who have achieved success by just allowing their music to do the talking. Yet, it's not long into 'To Lose My Life' – the opening track, in fact - before it becomes clear that White Lies could well be one of them.

'Death', originally the b-side to debut single 'Unfinished Business', serves not only as the album's ignition, but also as a roadmap for White Lies' full-throttle sound, which fuses brooding basslines, empowering 80s-inspired synths and thunderous drumbeats. Add to those ingredients the reverend vocals of Harry McVeigh, which are delivered as if they're being sung from purgatory, and it's easy to see why the band have been tipped for arenas. Mid-sized venues will certainly do well to devour songs as voracious as 'Farewell To The Fairground' or the tender one-line chorus – "Let's grow old together and die at the same time" – that McVeigh so doggedly chants on the album's title track.


The aforementioned lyric is a rather fitting example of the two themes that dominate the majority of the songs on 'To Lose My Life': love and death. McVeigh's armoury of macabre vocals, delivered at times liked a revitalised Simon Le Bon, come courtesy of bassist and songwriter, Charles Cave, who, despite only being 20, paints a picture of an individual already torn apart by life's fraught, and often painful, quest for love. In 'A Place To Hide', for example, his frontman delivers the line "Take my hand tonight, I think we'll be alright girl", amid a collision of cymbals and power chords that depict a brewing storm, while 'E.S.T' contains the even more heroic lyric: "If you tell me to jump then I'll die, in my dreams I'm there". In an age where artists are in competition to create the coarsest portrayal of modern life, there's a certain charm about Cave's old-fashioned Hollywood approach.

Perhaps that's because the theatrics aren't just confined to the lyrics. Over the course of 45 minutes, 'To Lose My Life's' construction bears all the hallmarks of cinema: its highs are prophetic and unashamed ('The Price Of Love'), while the lows are often powerful enough to catapult the listener right into the heart of the vast musical landscape ('Nothing To Give').

Another commenter on YouTube passionately predicts that White Lies will be the "biggest band on the planet within the next year". While that claim is a little bold, it's hard not to admire the audaciousness of 'To Lose My Life', or ignore the fact that it's a truly eye-opening debut album where the music really does do all the talking.

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