[Originally published May 18, 2016]
We’re living in an amazing time for female-centric DIY rock. Raw, unyielding artists like Bully, Hop Along, Girlpool, and Courtney Barnett have taken center stage in recent years and simultaneously stolen the hearts and minds of fans and critics alike.
One of this particular movement’s brightest beacons has been Vancouver natives White Lung. Formed in 2006, the three-piece outfit, led by charismatic vocalist Mish Way, released three brilliant, rip-roaring records over the span of 4 years, ending with 2014’s excellent Deep Fantasy, a thunderous, passionate work that garnered them much-deserved attention within the punk stratosphere.
However, the group seems to have lost its way on its latest opus, Paradise. The dark, naked sounds of Deep Fantasy have given way to desperate yet tepid pop-punk – which is harmless in its own right, but is this really the message White Lung wants to convey?
There are a few bright points – and most of them are to be found in vivid lyrical turns from Way. “I will give birth in a trailer/Huffing the gas in the air,” she snarls on the truly vicious “Kiss Me When I Bleed.” “Baby is born in molasses/Like I would even care.” On “Narcoleptic,” she half-shouts out a dark tale of drugs and recovery: “I gave up the seasons/To get straight and cop a reason/Wipe off his old drug blade/Run home and die unpaid.”
But overall, we hear the same basic elements – whiny, shivery guitar solos, tolling keyboards, thumpy, galumphing drums – you might expect from a band like, say, Trapt. Or one of the less hardcore groups on the Vans Warped Tour roster. Or perhaps some twisted amalgam of Paramore, Evanescence, and Breaking Benjamin. There’s generally very little on this record to distinguish it from the rest of the vast ocean of pop-punk detritus that’s flooded us for the last decade or so.
Don’t get me wrong, Paradise isn’t a terrible record, per se – just a confused and ultimately forgettable one. Way has a compelling and powerful voice, bubbling with angst and conviction that brings a certain urgency to even her more inane statements. And from a lyrical and productional standpoint – thanks in no small part to straightforward polishing from Lars Stalfors (HEALTH, Matt and Kim, Cold War Kids, The Mars Volta) – the band has never sounded more confident and cohesive. But the record collapses under the weight of the uninspired aesthetic they seem to be espousing. Thankfully, the whole experience is over in a brisk 28 minutes, so it’s worth listening to at least once. Enter at your own risk. You have been warned. (7.0/10)