London indie-rock outfit White Lies after two years have finally released their third studio album, Big TV. Following up on a reasonably consistent sophomore effort, Ritual, the expectations for lead vocalist and guitarist Harry McVeigh, bassist Charles Cave and drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown are to see if they have grown musically and spiritually as a band, and how well that translates onto Big TV . Personally, having listened to Ritual back in 2011, I was quite neutral about the band, they were neither outstanding nor excruciatingly bad, so I was quite blasé about them.
Single There Goes Our Love Again is the song that drives home the point of this album. It is a track filled with dreams of love and grandeur, sort of like the mixture of trepidation and exhilaration you feel before you get on a roller-coaster. Apparently a conceptual album depicting the volatile relationship dynamics of a small country couple who moves into the big city, White Lies exploits McVeigh's somewhat sexy tenor vocals to drive the 12-track record, along with 80s dissonant synths and buzzing guitar riffs. It all feels very surreal and white noise-y, alike a disfunctional television. Perhaps this continuous jarring vibe is symtomatic of the concept, but it sort of alienates the listener.
I'm not exactly drawn to most of the songs, but standouts include First Time Caller, which shows more hints of emotion and an understated pop exbuerance that really would make Big TV work, but sadly it's far and few in this album. They play with intrigue in songs like Change, with an atmospheric piano intro that is both wistful longing and rueful regret, as McVeigh intonates, "I've been lonely when I'm with you/ But now I'm lonely all the same / If you need to find yourself / in the arms of someone else / I wish you on your way but my love / I've never been too good a change". It portrays a more vulnerable side to the band, and is a direction they could well expand on. Similar to the single track, Be Your Man channels a more positive, poppier sound as compared to Ritual, which exuded darker vibes.
The backend of the album feels a little sparse and uninspiring, more of background noise than anything else. It would take a lot more for me to actually be comfortable listening to White Lies on repeat because while they might be getting better, and while Big TV might be the best material from them thus far, I still find myself wondering if it's all there is to them. I'm looking for some emotion but it's lost in translation, it seems.
Track Cuts: First Time Caller, Be Your Man, There Goes Our Love Again, Change