The Victoria – May 26th
It’s a Thursday gig and Friday is rapidly becoming a write-off. There’s sun, alcohol, and a cosy backroom with Colleen Green pouring from the PA; the vibes are strong for White Lung’s only London date on their European tour.
California’s Monster Treasure open with humble, fuzzy rock, drenched in 90s nostalgia. They inspire a myriad of flattering comparisons: Girlpool with their amps up, a clean L7, Pixies on a chill day. Really, it’s understated and driving punk, imbued with genuine cool. The vocal harmonies are sugary, the melodies sway sweetly, and it’s all drowned in reverb. It’s just a shame no one shows up to hear it.
Not so for White Lung; tonight’s show is sold out. The back room is dark and packed with bodies, the air is hazy with smoke. Dinge and dirge in classic punk relief, the expectation for flying limbs and reckless pits is high, but White Lung’s buzzsaw blend of underground snarl and Hollywood sheen comes over a little on the clean side tonight. The smoky backroom of the Victoria calls for danger and the cramped space is fertile ground for the spontaneous chaos that the right punk shows incite, but the band’s delivery is too calculated; dazzling, but not enough to stoke true uproar.
Still, it’s hard to deny the musical force on display. Mish Way’s vocals are flawless, emerging like an arrow point from the unrelenting, steely gnash behind her. The refreshingly crisp riff cascade of ‘I Beg You’ cuts through the distortion, and opener ‘Face Down’ is a meeting of the bare-bones nihilism of post punk and dirt-speckled rock ‘n’ roll glamour that is White Lung’s own.
The glaring issue with the live show is the lack of variation. ‘Kiss Me When I Bleed’ is wonderfully melodic and ‘Wrong Star’ is emotionally driving, but placed together in the same set they are too similar in pace and dynamics, as is the case with much of their material. It’s loud and upbeat but singularly-minded, and the mid-set lull is heavy. The show burns brightest when material from 2014’s breakthrough Deep Fantasy forces its way from the stage. Finally elevating the energy in the room, the one-two hit of ‘Down It Goes’ and ‘Drown With The Monster’ closes the set in bruised and bloody fashion but, sadly, the boost comes all too late.