Reviewed by: Ziggy Merritt
It’s been three years since we last saw a studio release from the invigorating punks behind White Lung. Members Mish Barber-Way, Kenneth William and Anne-Marie Vassiliou have spent those years in a state of flux, all coinciding with the sonic reinvention they’ve dubbed Paradise. This latest full-length offers up the grime and rapid-fire licks they’re known for while incorporating a more subdued pop structure atypical of their previous work.
That said, you would be a fool to think any of the vigor and vitriol behind their act has vanished. Along with the amped up production pushing them out of the lo-fi category, this may be their loudest effort yet. William’s blistering guitar chops, unrelenting in their intensity, have center stage alongside the rawness of Barber-Way’s singular vocals and Vassiliou’s own semi-automatic drumming. All of this is carried on throughout the near thirty minute wave of sound and fury that makes up the nine tracks on Paradise.
The sonic kick in the gut begins with the surprising catchiness of “Dead Weight” and ends in all too brief exit of the title track. In-between these two tracks the album picks up on Barber-Way’s voice now all the more visceral and biting.
At its core you could say Paradise is about love and all of its little imperfections. But pedestrian notions of star-crossed lovers bound by fate do a disservice to White Lung’s reputation. The lyricism is such that the seeming burden of exes professed on the opener “Dead Weight” proves the notion that love is anything but pretty: “I am a wash now without a life to please/And I know the hole inside of me/Is not the way I ever want to be.”
But inside of all this the true turn-around for White Lung comes in the album’s breakout track, “Below.” Verging on power ballad territory, there’s also a genuine touch of dream pop edged in, crystallizing what may well be a new direction for the band moving forward. These qualities mark a distinct separation from some of their modern contemporaries in Perfect Pussy and Joanna Gruesome whose vocals are often drowned in reverb. “You know this means nothing if you go die alone/They’ll bury your beauty/Transient living stone” sings Barber-Way on that same track, highlighting the inspired bits of songwriting punctuated by her all too intoxicating sneer.
There’s a maturity here and throughout Paradise that goes beyond the doom-laden pitfalls of relationships. Whether awash in the grime of tracks like “Sisters” and “Narcoleptic” or indulging in the frenetic pace of “Kiss Me When I Bleed”, the strength of Paradise lies in its commitment to renewing the crucial if harsh sonic elements that White Lung have clung to since the very beginning.