White Denim – Stiff

March 21, 2016

Due out March 25th, Stiff will be the seventh studio album release for Texas four-piece White Denim. That probably gives you a reasonable idea that they’re not exactly still discovering their sound, but rather have been smashing out music as a well-oiled machine for quite some time now. This will also now be their fourth record since the addition of second guitarist Austin Jenkins, and since his arrival they’ve continually been able to build the complexity of the arrangements written by frontman James Petralli.

To say that Stiff is a polished album would be a massive understatement. While White Denim are perhaps less explorative now when compared with their early albums when it comes to their garage tendencies, the frenetic energy of the early days is still here, but merely better directed. The vitality that shot them to prominence a decade ago is still present in their music, but conveyed through a variety of styles especially in the more up-beat tracks on the record.

The band has on this LP, created an incredibly well-rounded musical experience. From straight rock, to downright funk, laid-back soul and psychedelic riffs, White Denim have become incredibly adept at a wide range of genres within their typical sound. The first two tunes Had 2 Know and Ha Ha Ha Ha are up-beat rock tracks featuring heavy use of guitar and based predictable-sounding rock chord progressions. By the fourth track, we start to hear some of the psychedelic rock-style tendencies showing through, both in the more echoic vocal style and increasingly complex guitar melodies.

The funkier, back end of the album is kicked off when the tempo is taken down on tracks like the aptly named Take It Easy (After Everlasting Love) which features softly stated echoy guitar effects, which border on a bass-guitar harmonic type of psychedelic sound. This, coupled with a laid-back tempo conveys a seriously soulful vibe, which is then continued in the track that immediately follows it, (I’m The One) Big Big Fun. This is another slower jam that centres on a gorgeous funk riff supplemented by extensive use of wah-wah and a perhaps unexpected cowbell pedal to create a unique slow-funk vibe.

Typically when blues and rock bands play around with time signature they’ll largely stick to straight swaps from single to double time and vice versa. So it’s not entirely unexpected when the final track, Thank You utilises a separate time for its intro section. However in true old-school White Denim style, Peralli throws back to the more explorative days of the band by kicking off the tune with up-tempo triplets before progressing into a slower common time groove.

‘Stiff’ is out March 25th, you can pre-order it here.