White Lies: Ritual
Oh dear. In the history of ill-chosen album titles, this one is particularly bad. You know that when a reviewer thinks that White Lies’ second album, ‘Ritual’, isn’t much of a progression from their debut, they will cite the album title as being well-suited to its content or some such. Bad move, guys.
However, we’re not in that camp. We think their new album indicates a step forward for the trio, at least in terms of their ability to take risks. They have embraced electronics and incorporated them seamlessly into their sound, which as a result has become bigger yet simultaneously more focused.
This is however the only positive development on ‘Ritual’. In a classic case of the difficult second album, gravelly-voiced frontman Harry McVeigh and his bandmates have dropped the ball in style. Simply put, this does not live up to expectation, despite having an immense opening trio of ‘Is Love’, ‘Strangers’ and lead single ‘Bigger Than Us’.
After this promising beginning and the addition of the arresting ‘Peace & Quiet’, you can’t help but wonder whether or not the record will end up trumping ‘To Lose My Life’. It doesn’t, to sum things up, and it’s unfortunate that the first speedbump it hits is a big one.
‘Streetlights’ meanders in a way that can’t help but be seen as irritating, rapidly losing steam after its jerky, syncopated opening and ending up sounding much longer than its five minute running time. No amount of experimentation and development can save an album that has such a drop in quality between one half and the next.
‘Holy Ghost’ is one of the most immediate tracks on the album, straight away establishing itself as one of the band’s finest moments thus far. It’s a false dawn, though: ‘Turn The Bells’ through ‘Is Love’ - a third of the entire album - are merely ‘good’ songs, ones about which there is nothing spectacular, nothing anywhere near as thrilling as the high points of the debut.
‘Come Down’ is a fine way to finish, but as you can probably guess, we’d take the first two songs, ‘Holy Ghost’ and ‘Come Down’, and leave the rest. Only those four indicate what this album could have been.
Don’t even get us started on the lyrics, by the way. They’re atrocious all the way through. Yes, we’re hard-pressed to think of even one good line. It’s unbelievable that any of this could have come from McVeigh - even though his lyrics were never anything to write home about before - but he really has plumbed new depths.
‘Ritual’ is ‘solid’, and that’s about it. Six good songs, two great ones, two excellent. It’ll still sell by the absolute truckload, however, which is a shame, because by the high standard White Lies set for themselves with their debut, it’s quite a disappointment. They could have done so much better than this, and it’s an even bigger travesty that they didn’t realise it. [G’OM]
Audiovisuals: Bigger Than Us