Thursday, March 12, 2009

Review: White Denim - Exposion (* * * * 1/2)

Austin-based art-punk group White Denim are, unfortunately, flying well below the radar, which made them easy to miss in 2008. The band started selling CD-R copies of their debut record, Exposion, last year and eventually made the release official in a digital format from their website (no, you can't find it on iTunes). Their unique and energetic blend of a variety of genres combined with a raw, rough presentation makes their music fun, exciting, and just strange enough that it stands out amid a plethora of like-minded groups. While the band remain something of a secret for now, I imagine it won't be long before people take notice.

I suppose the easiest way to classify White Denim is to call them a rock band, because they do rock...hard, but it doesn't really describe the frenetically paced selection of tunes on Exposion. The group keep their sound fairly straightforward, using a basic guitar/bass/drum combination, but stylistically, they're all over the place throughout the album's 36 minutes. Opener "Don't Look That Way At It" is an oddball indie punk song that features singer/songwriter James Patrelli's acrobatic vocals and fiery guitar and bass riffs, while follower "Transparency" leans much more toward classic rock, as do the soulful "All You Really Have To Do" and the restless "Heart From All Of Us." Closer "Sitting" finishes things spectacularly with joyous horn arrangements over a melodic pop-rock tune that turns into messy explosion of noise before fading. Patrelli proves himself to be both a versatile singer and guitarist, which keeps the record consistently surprising and fun, and the band more than ably backs him up at every turn.

Some of the more interesting tracks on the record are actually the handful of instrumentals thrown in, especially the 'single' "Shake Shake Shake," which rocks some sweet riffs between shouted nonsense at the beginning and ending. "Migration Wind" shows a (slightly) more settled side of the band with layers of acoustic guitar over the simple bass and drum line before the volume goes up, while "WDA" is a constantly shifting arrangement of ear-pleasing rock 'n' roll that doesn't need vocals to entertain.

While Exposion may feel a little scattered, you'll have such a good time that it's unlikely to matter much anyway. The music is simply presented and exceptionally played, and there's not one dud to be found among the 11 tracks, a remarkable achievement considering this is the group's first go-round. White Denim are making rock music fun again, and they're doing it with obvious talent and a great deal of style.

Check out some of White Denim's tunes on MySpace or head over to their website where you can purchase the record (the only place, as far as I know).