White Denim - Stiff, album review: ‘It’s the coolest kid on the block’

album review

album review - Credit: Archant

Having built up a reputation as one of the coolest guitar bands on the planet over the last decade, with cut’n’shut riffage and rhythm changes, some serious drumming chops and second-to-none axemanship, the Austin band’s sixth LP might have worried some.

For this is not the White Denim we knew – both drummer and guitarist are new recruits, leaving singer James Petralli and bassist Steve Terebecki the only original members.

For a band so well-oiled and reliant on manic but supremely honed, pin-sharp and breakneck-speed musicianship, this could have posed a big problem.

But fans will forget any concerns as soon as the opening riffs of Had 2 Know (Personal) kick-start a heady triple-whammy of golden-era, joyful, carefree, pedal-to-the-metal songs with hooks sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel.

Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah) is the coolest kid on the block, vibing off a taut guitar riff and Californian sunshine for the best feel-good song so far this year - “Be yourself/Try to have a good time” sings Petralli, chanelling groovy ‘70s soul.

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So, they’ve still got it - and Stiff finds them scurrying down new rabbit holes, too.

The divertingly psych-infused There’s A Brain In My Head is followed by two dialled-down, retro-soul numbers that reveal a new, affecting side to Petralli’s voice.

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The lounge soul of Take It Easy (Ever After Lasting Love) is a post-watershed slowie that paves the way for even deeper declarations of love and lust in the slinky, ‘70s-indebted (I’m The One) Big Big Fun, replete with shakers, agogo bell and shagpile carpet lining.

While they revert to type on guitar belter Mirrored In Reverse, the second half also boasts the shimmering Real Deal Momma and mellifluous, winding and jazz-informed sign-off Thank You, co-written with Cass McCombs.

All in all, Stiff rises above internal upheaval for a record that’s way more fun than filling your undercrackers with cacti.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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