White Lies – Ritual
The common definition of a simile is as follows: a figure of speech that expresses a resemblance between things of different kinds. Harry McVeigh, lead singer of Ealing three-piece White Lies, knows a thing or two about them, as over the course Ritual you are beaten over the head with them. Within the first few minutes of opener Is Love alone we’ve already been told of ‘hollows in your face like wishing wells’, blood that is ‘as scarlet as a paper cut’ and apparently someone is ‘sulking like a valley.’
The sheer amount of description in McVeigh’s lyrics is commendable, however it can at times cloud whatever it is he is writing about. It’s the musical equivalent of being shown delicious menu after delicious menu without ever getting to actually enjoy what lies behind it. Except, to be fair, that analogy doesn’t quite work. As frustrating as McVeigh’s lyrical vagueness can be at times, there is plenty to enjoy on Ritual.
If you look past the bullet point lyrics, Is Love – with its throbbing bass and gravel guitar – builds things to an epic scale that White Lies reach often enough on Ritual to suggest that the kitchen sink was as vital an instrument in the recording studio as McVeigh’s disaffected vocals.
This bluster is equally present and correct on first single Bigger Than Us. A mission statement of a song, it is already a White Lies classic but, to their credit, it may not be the best thing here. And there are a few contenders – not least the soaring Strangers which, in its propulsive close boasts the most sing-along moment present here, with McVeigh exclaiming ‘there’s nothing stranger than to love someone.’
The thick shards of icy synth and bubbly bass on Peace & Quiet usher in a touch of glam and a hint of disco, a vibe that is returned to on The Power & The Glory – a shimmying, electro-tinged, group vocal fuelled gem.
Elsewhere the industrial-sized Turn The Bells is possibly one of the best songs the band has written. Enormously dramatic and chock full of McVeigh-isms – ‘peaks puncture the sky like a child’s icy tones’ – it grows into something very special. For a moment you think you’ve just uncovered the greatest lost 80’s power ballad never to see the light of day.
White Lies annoy as many as they delight due to the fact that they stick to their task unremorsefully. Everything is dark, everything is huge, everything can get even bigger. You certainly can’t see them making a stripped back acoustic affair any time soon. But, after listening to Ritual – you wouldn’t want them to.