Hypes are dangerous, as, normally, a ‘hype band’ is not as good as it should be or as original. There are other hypes, even worse – those when a band that’s supposed to have a quality, a background, a density, becomes successful, everybody talk about it, you see it featured in a hundred pubs et al, but when you get to see them live or when you download their best record, they sound like Neil Young playing C-sides or when Oasis were at their peak and not at their peak (boring, not difficult this one) and you don’t really understand what the fuss is about.
Of course, it’s a matter of taste but, then again, Larry Mullen Jr., U2’s drummer, once said: “You can stay in a room playing until the end of time, but if you can’t tell the difference between a good song and a bad song, you’re wasting you’re time.” (yeah, now many of you will think ‘you could apply that to your band’, but he’s right) And the same goes for tastes: If a band doesn’t inspire you, doesn’t move you, doesn’t alter your bloodstream, to be polite, it’s also a waste of time.
Unfortunately, there are bands that should be hype, but they aren’t. Like Texas’ White Denim. The chaps from Austin have been working hard to excel with a string of records that have clearly shown a band in continuous progress, not only creative but also of its environment and the way it works (for their latest record, D, they spent some good money in equipment and in studio time and that showed in the final result) and they arrived at Amsterdam’s Melkweg on Tuesday, May 29th, right in the middle of their world tour.
Displayed in a way that the whole middle section of the stage was empty, the four-piece presented the audience with an incredible set of rock tinged with psychedelia, funk, shape-shifting structures, virtuosity and electricity in different proportions, depending on the song.
The appeal and charm of their art is evident in tracks like the warm and radio-friendly “Regina Holds Hands”, the rocky “Shake, Shake, Shake”, the soft and nocturne but with an epic ending “Synch”, the expansive “Say What You Want” – one of the many tunes that shifted in structure after the second verse and ended up being something completely different – or “I’d Have It Just They Way We Were”, with its ‘70s feel and one where lead singer and guitarist James Petralli could show his improved vocal ability (not that he sang horribly before, but this time he sounded spot on).
The approach of the gig was to release as much energy as possible, to let things flow and to transform the small venue into a music rollercoaster, but that was not possible if the band didn’t include slower yet tight songs like “Street Joy”, one of the gems that showed that White Denim are in the right path to sound genuine without rejecting the fact that they want, just like any other band, to reach as much people as possible.
Certain is that their influences are clear to many – Soft Machine, Head, Hands & Feet and many others – but the work and passion they put on their compositions, alongside their unstoppable will to creatively wander onstage, make them different to many bands that come from a similar place (Wilco, Black keys). So, maybe, they‘ll end up being a hype, but for once there will be some substance and some credibility to that label.