When you’re an artist that draws inspiration from all the bad things in life, (depression, anxiety, etc.) what do you do when you’re at a happy point in your life? This was what Mish Barber-Way, lead singer of White Lung, was facing when writing for their 4th album Paradise. Luckily, she has a day job as a journalist where she writes about some of the more despicable characters in the play that is human life. So what a better dark source to draw from than the stories of these people.
Take the song “Sister.” It is written from the point of view of a woman who, along with her husband, raped and killed her sister. As you can imagine, the lyrics get pretty graphic: “You’ll burn a bit my little sister, he’ll drop and taste the best of you. We will cement you into garbage, I swear I miss all of you.” And while Barber-Way spins her demented tale, Kenneth William on guitar and Ann-Marie Vassilou on drums work to make sure the music is just as unhinged as the subject matter. William’s guitar is at once driving and powerful, but also spacey and hypnotic. He lays down heavy chord progressions to work through the verses, and then comes out with his signature reverb and echo heavy riffing throughout. All the while, Vassilou attacks her drums like she is beating off the killers from the song.
Paradise is still as much of a haunting and aggressive punk record as any of White Lung’s previous material, but the band is comfortable enough to tweak the formula a bit. And in this case, it definitely pays off. After starting off with the “traditional White Lung style” track “Dead Weight,” the band goes into the jangly and manic “Narcoleptic.” The opening riff to this one is like nothing the band has done before. The tone is still the same, but the riff itself is very sharp and angular, and gives the whole song an interesting feel where you can tell this is White Lung doing what they do best, and pushing it to another level. It doesn’t hurt that this song also has the catchiest verses on the whole album.
After “Narcoleptic,” White Lung challenges listeners even more with “Below.” This is probably the slowest, and dare I say “poppiest” song in the bands’ history, but dammit if it’s not one of the best songs of the year. What White Lung shows with “Below” is that even as they slow things down to a speed they have never even gotten close to before, their spacy, atmospheric tone and strong songwriting immediately take away any thought that the song is not good simply because it is different. In actuality, the song comes off as the band saying, “look, here’s something new and different. Now watch how awesome we make this sound.” Their tone is perfect for songs of this speed, and Barber-Way’s emotional vocals really bring out the best in the somber lyrics.
Paradise continues with the rest of the songs mixing their classic fast and dark songwriting while also throwing in something new every now and then for good measure. It all culminates in what I think is the best track on the whole thing, the title track “Paradise.” This is probably the most driving song on the album, with straightforward fast drums and mostly straightforward power chord guitars. The opening riff though, really grabs the listener right from the beginning of the song and pulls them along through the whole thing, popping up again in the ridiculously catchy choruses. And just when they got you wanting to hear more, the album is over.
There really isn’t a bad song on Paradise. This is an album made by a band who knows what they are doing. They already have 3 albums done and released, they have perfected their unique tone, and they know they can write amazing albums. So naturally, they are going to play around with the formula. And rarely does a band so effortlessly accomplish the task of blending the old and the new as well as White Lung does here. This is definitely my favorite album of the year so far.
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