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White hot rockers give two fingers to difficult second album

Rating: 9 / 10

Celina Murphy, 01 Jul 2009

If we’re talking influences, Fits is many, many things: psychedelic rock, punk-funk, doo-wop, blues-rock, acid jazz... I won’t go on. On their second outing (technically third but 2008’s Explosion was more or less debut Workout Holiday rejigged for American release) Austin innovators White Denim have set themselves up for the accusation that they may be achieving nothing by trying to achieve everything. Relax fans, they’ve made no such mistake.

Visiting The White Stripes and The Beach Boys all in a single (two-minute) song, the Stateside trailer-rockers dart masterfully in and out of countless eras and God only knows how it sounds as good as it does. The arrangements are disjointed, staccato-wrought and, frankly, all over the shop, but White Denim have this unique format of sporadic musicianship down to a tee.

Opener ‘Radio Milk How Can You Stand It’ blasts off with the same frenzied shape-shifting rock that we loved on Workout Holiday and from then on, moments of magic abound – from the jivey hand-claps in ‘Paint Yourself’ to the freak-out guitar solo on the reverb-heavy ‘Say What You Want’, from the Latin licks on ‘El Hard Attack DCWYW’ to the gorgeously piled-up textures of the decidedly dub ‘Sex Prayer’. There’s not a hint of filler.

Then there’s the equally perplexing nature of Petralli’s vocals: at times he’s pure Hendrix, as on ‘Everybody Somebody’, and at others a creaking falsetto (see ‘Syncn’), not unlike what you might hear from the voice box of Antony Hegarty. In fact, in true White Denim-style, the aforementioned ‘Syncn’ starts in chamber pop territory and out of nowhere breaks down to angry funk with a triumphant “la la la” refrain to see out the album.

Barely a year after Workout Holiday’s release, the Texas trio have followed up with a sound that’s muddled, distracted and a million things at once, and as such a lot of people aren’t going to give Fits the time of day (that is, if they manage to dodge the irresistibly catchy, soon-to-be single ‘I Start To Run’). To them I say take pity on your rock ‘n’ roll soul, and please don’t deny it a record that is frantic, exploratory and simply brilliant.

Key Track: ‘Mirrored And Reverse’

Rating: 9 / 10
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