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White Denim – Corsicana Lemonade

Texan band White Denim have, over the past decade, been one of America’s most startling bands. On previous albums like Fits and 2011’s wonderful D they have shown enough invention to have the patent office working overtime. They draw upon American rock heritage and in their albums can be found echoes of the Mothers of Invention , Quicksilver Messenger Service , Allman Brothers combined with funk and free-form jazz. They are professional shape-shifters and they inhabit their own unique space.

It is often said that you pin a genre on White Denim at your peril. The band have described this new album Corsicana Lemonade as their “barbecue record”. The reason for this is very clear since this is by a country mile the most accessible album they have recorded. In essence, this is White Denim moving towards the centre but doing it their way. To stress a point, the album is by no means devoid of the trademark, skittery syncopated rhythms and odd time signatures. Rock music is never quite straightforward with this band, but the album will appeal to those already immersed in the band ethic and for those approaching for the first time a treat is in store. Take the opener ‘At Night In Dreams’, full of rumbling bass and lovely melodic guitar runs that positively bubble and burn.

The title track is even better, full of jazzy guitar noodling, blues riffing and sounding like Jeff Beck meets the Marshall Tucker Band . Things slow down for the lovely country-soul ballad ‘New Blue Feeling’ where lead singer/songwriter James Petralli does a sterling job. Wilco ‘s Jeff Tweedy produced two cuts on Corsicana Lemonade , both on the mellow end of the spectrum: the Steely Dan sounding ‘Distant Relatives’ and ‘A Place to Start’, which is a song Todd Rundgren would be proud of. This reviewer however prefers the flowing jazzy lines of the excellent ‘Distant Relative Salute’. Best of all are two relatively straightforward rockers, the surging almost Thin Lizzy -style riffing at the end of the funky ‘Come Back’ sees guitarists James Petralli and Austin Jenkins exchanging chops with jigsaw complexity. The gold medal nonetheless goes to ‘Cheer Up/Blues Feeling’ a deceptively easy track starting with Black Crowes guitar riffing interplay and finally breaking out into a wondrous restrained jam.

Upon hearing the single ‘Pretty Green’ on pre-release to this album there has been some internet traffic arguing that White Denim have ‘gone all Black Keys ‘. It is true that is by far the most commercial effort the band have pieced together, but is that a bad thing? There certainly is nothing quite as spectacularly good on this new album as the double punch of ‘Burnished/Back At The Farm’ from D but there are enough songs here pushing to that level and consistency throughout is rock solid. White Denim release their new album on the same day as Arcade Fire ‘s overblown misstep Reflektor . Thus, a useful tip for true connoisseurs of rock music would be to shift their gaze from Montreal to Austin and give this great band from the music town a full hearing.

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