I got my first taste from White Rabbits with The Tripwire back at SXSW, when they opened the festivities at the Levi's/FADER Fort. I was impressed but I didn't quite understand the full breadth of what this New York sextet was going for. In short, Fort Nightly, White Rabbits' debut, is splendid. It is an eerie tale, wrought with danger, twists and turns, and the occasional dance number. The peculiar aesthetic wound around the album is all at once frightening, joyful and full of camaraderie.
Like many storytellers before them, White Rabbits weave an impressively entertaining view of the Dark Side. The way I see it, there's two types of Hell - The Inferno and Las Vegas (as portrayed by Terry Gilliam). One is frightening, the other is, well, fucking odd. Fort Nightly finds its home somewhere in-between. The tale begins with "Kid On My Shoulders," the soundtrack to your spiral down the rabbit hole, complete with dark and gloomy shakers and a damned choir of souls heralding your entrance. "Take A Walk Around The Table" and "March Of The Camels" add to the crazed carnival feel of the album, each giving off their own sideshow-esque aura. "Dinner Party" and "Fort Nightly" are filled with delightful melodies, and "I Used To Complain Now I Don't" showcases a pretty happy guitar riff. In fact, the album is really fun to listen to and really wouldn't seem that eerie if it weren't for the overriding Calypso-inspired beats. They sort of cast a shadow of sinister dealings and ghostly happenstance about the record, but that's what's so damn enjoyable about it.
Set aside the gloom for a bit and find "The Plot," probably this album's most straightforward and accessible track, though not quite on par with the atmosphere of the rest. "While We Go Dancing" is another treat as White Rabbits tweak their style just enough to spin it from the Caribbean to the dirty dance hall of a Wild West Saloon. The jangle of the piano is great throughout the album, but it's used to perfection here.
Out of all the tracks, "Navy Wives," seems to be the most of evocative of White Rabbits' sound and what makes them so special. Using several different styles they are able to guide you on a twisted journey through both frightening and uplifting stories. Though you may find some similarities to other New York groups, namely The Walkmen, the similarities are merely in instrumentation. The overall feel of Fort Nightly is closer to that oddness found in The White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan or The Zutons' Who Killed...... The Zutons? This album is definitely an original work though and is definitely worth your time. And even though they may not have been going for it, I still think they've got one of the best interpretations of Hell out there.
"The Plot" MP3