Music Reviews
Deep Fantasy

White Lung Deep Fantasy

(Domino Recording Company) Rating - 5/10

Last year, I had the opportunity to see the Vancouver punk outfit known as White Lung do its thing in the basement hall of the Unitarian Church in Philadelphia.  The band shared their stage with METZ and Iceage: a good bill if I do say so and definitely the type of line-up suited for the Church’s humid and crowded basement, which was packed with attentive youth, many clutching paper bags housing ill-gotten beverages, their bodies colliding with each other or rocking back and forth, wafts of adolescent B.O. hanging in the air.  White Lung was touring for their then-latest release, Sorry, and ably incorporated a thought-out abrasiveness of tone into an otherwise melodic blast that never seemed to break the two-minute mark.  While I couldn’t help but liken some of what they were doing to the Warped Tour/mid-90s Epitaph bands that enjoy a diluted and syrupy translation of the “punk” ideal, what I’d seen that night seemed legit and the band’s vocalist, Mish Way, has a commanding presence and a voice well suited for White Lung’s persona.  The riffs garnered the correct reaction from the crowd and the band’s energy stayed up.

When I’d listened to Sorry, I thought much of what made White Lung something to see had found its way into the album.  The music splintered when it needed to and kept to being fairly unpolished, which granted the band’s otherwise melodic sensibilities a tinge of aggression and some resemblance to the DIY punk acts of yore, which has also helped a band like Fucked Up remain relevant in any now wave of the post-millennial punk. 

By contrast, White Lung’s newest release, Deep Fantasy, is likely to find resonance amongst those who suffer from a case of 90s-era revivalist amnesia and/or ignorance, a condition of which many of you Against Me! fans should be familiar.  While the album does contain some of the less refined aggro found in Sorry, Deep Fantasy is a smooth and fast 22 minutes, hook-laden and sharp.  And, Mish Way dominates, overshadowing much of what’s going on in the background at times.  She knows how to present a worthwhile and emotive melody, a factor of considerable significance in terms of much of what drives Deep Fantasy’s contents. 

Beginning with the thrashy Drown With The Monster, the kick drum weighs in and the song is launched.  It’s an immediate grab.  Down It Goes follows, a continual presence of rapidly stroked guitar strings and sweaty drum calisthenics remains reliably consistent.  From here you know what to expect: mild variations on riff (I Believe You, Just For You, Lucky One, Sycophant) without much variation on speed.  As Deep Fantasy seems truly invested in simply delivering the goods, the best summary of White Lung’s opus is perfectly demonstrated by two of the excellent singles it’s spawned, which are the aforementioned Drown With The Monster and Snake Jaw, a song that writhes and spits through pace and melody.  But, even their intros (along with the additional standout, Face Down) pull from a singular bag of tricks (riff, stomp-stomp-stomp-stomp, go!), and with additional listens, certain similarities grow apparent. 

As punk rock’s not been known to vary up the formula much, instead working through an overt and essential level of noise and intensity and allowing that to make its case for great, good or shitty, there should be some leeway regarding much of the album’s sameness.  On the other hand, with so much attention paid to melody, the ability for the band to carve something more distinct throughout its ten tracks doesn’t seem too difficult a task.  The harmonics at play in Wrong Star, for instance, provide something unique to the album’s make-up, as does its closing track, In Your Home, which is its slowest (relatively speaking) and most despairing.

Inasmuch as White Lung revels in churning out only the good parts, and there are some VERY good parts to Deep Fantasy, there’s something to be said for exploring textures and challenging predictability.  Less a statement on White Lung’s potential than its ability to rush through an album, through its attempts at relentlessness, Deep Fantasy underwhelms.