Anthony And The Johnsons and The White Lies latest albums reviewed
5/7 To Lose My Life The names Harry, Charles and Jack make White Lies sound like they might get into all sorts of Famous Five-style scrapes. In fact, dark, decidedly adult thoughts prey on their 20-year-old minds, as indicated by the titles of their second single (‘Death’) and album, not to mention the funeral setting of ‘From The Stars’ and lines like ‘I leave my memoirs in blood on the floor’ (‘EST’). All of which suggests three posh, postmodern Chattertons with a Joy Division fixation and student-ish delusions of squalor.
However, White Lies’ stylish saturnalia – part of a long continuum of literate glum-pop – is expressed in lithe, expansive and unashamedly rockist tunes built for the stadium. That one of the LP’s two producers has worked with The Killers gives you some idea of their epic intent and, although they’re clearly in awe of Joy Division, New Order and (less so) The Teardrop Explodes, they’re obviously also big fans of Billy Idol and Duran Duran – something that has gone unnoticed by their champions.
‘To Lose My Life’ – a brilliant single driven by a masterstroke of a bassline – pays homage to Idol’s ‘White Wedding’, while ‘Farewell to the Fairground’ suggests The Teardrop Explodes made over by teenage fans of Iron Maiden. That White Lies were formerly bog-standard indie-popsters Fear Of Flying and have been together less than two years makes their debut even more impressive, but Harry McVeigh’s mannered baritone grows tiresome and the pomp quickly palls, while ‘From The Stars’ is a plain over-reaching mess. All up, this is highly accomplished, slightly ridiculous fun – existential angst with a stylist.
Anthony And The Johnsons
6/7 The Crying Light People often talk about Anthony Hegarty’s ‘otherwordly’ quality, by which we suspect they’re not just trying to describe that uniquely tremulous tenor (today we think he sounds like a human hummingbird with blancmange in its lungs) but also politely referring to his arresting appearance (he debuted these tracks in London underneath a mauve toga, which made the performance look like a Greek tragedy played out by a Cabbage Patch doll).
But to his usual preoccupations of transformation and transcendence, we can now add a third: our ruining of the natural world. And at the album’s heart is a valediction to the planet so sorrowfully sensual that Hegarty seems to be clinging to Mother Nature’s fingertips like a lover.
He still doesn’t do feeling by halves (the title track finds him carving his beloved’s head into the back of the sun). But there’s greater structural variation and textural subtlety here, with echoey piano leading the way, Philip Glass protégé Nico Muhly contributing to string arrangements and, on ‘One Dove’, a sound like Baby Dee’s harp being tortured on a rack.
Closing track ‘Everglade’ may threaten to tip into self-parody, but you have to marvel at an album that, from the slow blues rock of ‘Aeon’ to the choral drone of the lament-like ‘Dust And Water’, can change its expression suddenly and strikingly. Not unaffecting, then, as send-offs for planets’ souls go.