From the punky vibes of their critically acclaimed psychedelic debut Let’s Talk About It, to the experimental bluesy sounds of 2013’s Corsicana Lemonade, each new release from Texas-based quartet White Denim appears to challenge the last in an effortless battle of musical individuality. Nonetheless, the band’s discography remains woven together via their signature style, and 2016’s Stiff appears to be no different. As the seventh studio album from White Denim, this record also marks the first full-length release since the departure of guitarist Austin Jenkins and drummer Josh Block, allowing new members Jeff Olson and Jonathan Home to take over. While previous releases may have challenged their predecessors, the back-to-basics attitude behind this record makes for an intriguing listen.
Stiff opens with the fuzzy, upbeat guitar sounds of ‘Had to Know (Personal)’ – already indicating this musical fresh start with a stronger focus on the much cleaner vocal work from frontman James Petralli. Single release ‘Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)’ takes a slightly funkier approach with its guitar work, before ‘Holda You (I’m Psycho)’ kicks things up a notch with a feel-good rockabilly vibe. Next ‘There’s A Brain In My Head’ bears the closest resemblance to the band’s earlier releases, cleverly placed next to the soulful sounds of Prince-esque RnB track ‘Take It Easy (Ever Lasting Love)’ and funky riffs that move effortlessly throughout ‘(I’m the One) Big Big Fun’.
While some listeners may feel that this record is missing the punkier experimental sounds of earlier releases, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and the band soon pick up the pace again with ‘Real Deal Momma’ in a series of steady rhythms and rock ‘n’ roll vibrations ‘Mirrored In Reverse’ comes next, reminiscent of some early Cheap Trick efforts while ‘Thank You’ brings the album to a close with some chilled, harmonious guitar work. Perhaps this is White Denim’s attempt to say thank you throughout this new venture; “thank you for giving us a chance.”
Buy: White Denim – Stiff