Mar 13, 2012 Web Exclusive
On 2009's It's Frightening, White Rabbits avoided sophomore slump by going for sophomore Spoon. With Britt Daniel as producer, the band found some serious direction, at the expense of occasionally being a dead ringer for Daniel's own band. The whole experience certainly whipped them into shape—give the 2007 debut Fortnightly a spin next to those songs, or especially alongside this batch, and it sounds almost unfocused. Things are now sleek, streamlined, and very much stylized.
Continuing the Spoonification here, the group opted for Spoon's producer, Mike McCarthy. McCarthy's production can be head-spinningly dynamic and magical, immediately evident on opener "Heavy Metal," with electronic flourishes, backwards piano, and rattling, sporadic percussion elements over a claustrophobic backbone. "Hold It to the Fire" expands and compresses beautifully, with atmospheric guitar noise and ingenious vocal treatments on vocalist Stephen Patterson's sometimes-falsetto. "Back for More" pairs a serpentine guitar, a mechanical-feeling beat, and more of McCarthy's deft production tricks, with quite seductive results. "It's Frightening" is a superb tune, bouncing along gently to what sounds like a software metronome, Patterson mumble-singing (or Daniel-singing) "It's not an awful sight/Let your guard down" over some choice organ chords while McCarthy goes King Tubby on the drum tracks.
There are a few songs that hearken back to that debut. "I'm Not Me" and "Everyone Can't Be Confused" actually might make sense from a band that once coined themselves "honky tonk calypso" and cited Madness as a hefty influence. But it keeps going back to that Spoon thing, and McCarthy's massive 3D treatment here. It's dense, urban stuff, and the band is increasingly (and audibly) indebted to its collaborators. Is that a bad thing? No, frankly, because those collaborators are rubbing off in the best way, and the bulk of these tunes are not second-rate imitations, but fully realized—and seriously catchy—originals. The student, it seems, is becoming the master. (www.whiterabbitsmusic.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 7/10