White Denim are one of those kinds of bands that just make you want to drive insanely fast and punch the air with your fists. They make this kind of uptempo, good time rock and roll that is a little more caffeinated than your average fun time rock band. Another thing about White Denim is that they’re incredibly talented musicians. Singer/guitarist James Petralli is a force to be reckoned with. Besides being this guitar wizard he sings like he was a sixties soul singer in another life. Bassist Steven Terebecki and drummer Jeff Olson lock into grooves like some of the best Stax players. Guitarist Jonathan Horne fills in the spaces the other three don’t creating this musical fabric that’s as rich and deep as the musical history these guys borrow from and make something wholly original and ever so funky. Their newest record, Stiff, adds on to what they’ve been doing for a decade. There’s the southern flair(they are from Austin, Texas you know), but punk, fusion, soul, prog, experimental, psych, and classic AOR rock all influence White Denim and the songs on Stiff. It’s a hell of a ride.
“Had 2 Know(Personal)” blows up like the Dixie Dregs, the Allman Brothers, and Stiff Little Fingers turned into a Voltron-like music monster. White soul pours from Petralli like sweat off of Meatloaf in 1977. Good time riffs and a pumped up groove get the record off to a great start. “Ha Ha Ha Ha(Yeah)” is so groovy it should be illegal(I think it is in Oklahoma.) White Denim make the kind of music that bridges the gap between young and old. I could see folks ranging from 16 to 65 getting funky to this song at a White Denim show. Like listening to James Brown, Ray Charles, or Curtis Mayfield, you just can’t help but crack a smile and tap your foot as Petralli and company let loose. “Holda You(I’m Psycho)” sounds like the Allman Bros and Green Day went through a particle accelerator at the same time and this song is what was the result. A rock and roll monster of epic proportion.
I can only imagine how insanely good a White Denim gig is(watching their Austin City Limits set only solidified that thinking for me.) They do bring things down to a soulful breeze, like on the excellent “Take It Easy(Ever After Lasting Love)”. It’s like Al Green possessed the body of this southern white guy and the band is Muscle Shoals ready here. Swinging soul. Baby-making, booty-grooving music right here. Album closer “Thank You” sounds like a Soft Machine rev up before shifting gears down to a rock and soul groove out ending. Soulful backup singers and wiggly synths turn this song into something not quite of this earth. Timeless and yet timely.
White Denim are a band like AC/DC. It doesn’t matter what’s going on or what mood you’re in, you throw on one of their records and the day gets a little better. They’re always themselves. There’s no trends being followed or current styles being imitated here. White Denim make good time, solid records that appeal to both the folks at the party drunkenly grooving in the middle of the room with the opposite sex, as well as those lonelier souls sitting on the couch being amazed at the guitar dexterity coming out of those speakers. Stiff is that record for the loved, lusted, longed for, and those folks that are just plain ready to get down. Dig in.