About a year and a half ago I wrote that White Denim, a frenetic new trio from Austin, TX was, "a fucking workout." This was a sentiment that went well with their first EP Let's Talk About It, a piece that was equal parts high-impact elliptical machine and sweatbox. It was the 8-pound free weight during that early morning run. I guess it might also have been the ankle weights running up the stadium steps. My sentiment was echoed in their overseas release, Workout Holiday EP, which brought an extra track to the routine, and increased my urge to associate White Denim with calorie burning. Now, with the release of their first full-length player, Exposion, the urge has been somewhat stifled, despite the hefty sweat I've worked up in enjoyment.
Here, Exposion, isn't so much a trip along the edge of cardiac arrest, it is more like the stride hit by a seasoned runner. Where Let's Talk About It was fast paced, filled with differentiating time, barking and some of the swampiest bass on record, Exposion is longer (obviously), spread out and airy. The breaks have been applied here and there to allow actual melody to pass. In doing so, White Denim have managed to show us that there is beauty amidst the chaos of rock and roll.
The album starts off with "Don't Look That Way At It", a virtual continuation of the EPs, and yet another solid expression of this trio's tightly crafted musicianship. Guitars loop and layer while Steve Terebecki and Josh Block provide nothing but stoic rhythm and time, allowing James Petralli's soulful yell to take center stage. They soon break into powerful blasts only to come back into the awkward loops. This method also works out well on both "All You Really Have To Do" and "Ieieie" Though both of these tracks have their own standout qualities, the former showcasing a Hendrix-like vibe and the latter starting heavy then breaking into beautiful acoustic fingering and distorted drum clicks.
Exposion also manages to bring in a new softer side to White Denim. With both "Heart From Us All" and "You Can't Say" they tone down the distortion just enough to let through some seriously beautiful melodies. Tugging on the strings of both the heart and the guitar, the main force behind the feeling is Petralli. His voice is at the same time rugged, worn and youthful. It is quite a joy to see a band known for suck kinetic performance tone it down and show another side.
There are in my opinion, two standout tracks on this release, "Shake Shake Shake" and "Sitting". Now these are not standout in a way as to play down the rest of the album, rather, they're just two that manage to stick around my brain. The first "Shake Shake Shake" is a track I had heard previously, in both concert and as a random record found on the Internets. It is the 1960s. It is surf rock. It is tubular and it is layered with everything there is to like about White Denim. It is swampy bass carrying along rolling percussion, navigating the gnarly tsunami of wailing guitar. There are vocals strewn about the chaos and the basic urging of the trio to simply "shake" is so charming that you'll probably find yourself shaking before it's all over with.
The album closer "Sitting" is another standout here, and a great track to end on in that it is quite a step in another direction for the group. Starting off with a piano lick that eventually transitions seamlessly onto Petralli's guitar strings and even finding room for a sax solo, this closing track could be evidence of some very cool things to come. As if White Denim need more hype to expose upon.