White Denim have always felt musically restless, producing a series of compelling and tightly-wound albums that are marked out, as much by their accomplished musicianship, as their fitful and disorienting invention. Perpetually creative, they have transitioned in style from breakneck garage rock on Workout Holiday and psych-math jams on Fits, to the rambling prog-blues of D – as though searching for the answer to an unknown question.
So, when you first hear the Texan quartet’s latest LP - Corsicana Lemonade - with it’s straightforward delivery of classic southern-fried rock, you might be forgiven for feeling a little disarmed.
That’s not to say there’s a drop in quality, but it sees the band rein in their sonic schizophrenia in favour of a hitherto untapped clarity. Producing something supremely confident and rhythmically taut, which uses the safety of rock conventions (memorable choruses and infectious melodies unencumbered by rampant experimentation) to deconstruct what you expect from their sound.
Although, if you scratch the surface and it’s not quite the huge paradigm shift it first appears. It shares similar ground to D, with key hallmarks of their work – keen songwriting and unwavering technical precision – still on show. However, by working in a more acutely specific genre it allows them to highlight their abilities even further, making a thrilling record, that in the hands of a less accomplished band could have easily heralded the stadium banality of the Kings of Leon.
Of course, if all this talk of maturity and clarity sounds rather anodyne, don’t be fooled; from the exuberant pomp of opener “At Night In Dreams” – which echoes the rhythmic drive of Thin Lizzy – to the exultant country rock of “Come Back” – which overflows with foot stomping beats and gyrating guitar riffs – this isn’t an exercise in beard stroking solemnity. Rather, it’s the sound of a band kicking back and having fun. Be that in the more traditional southern tinged boogie of “Pretty Green” or “Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)” – the latter an intoxicating mix of loosely plucked acoustic guitars washed over a gutsy fuzzbox bass. Or “Distant Relative Salute” which builds from a humble folksy ramble to exultant rock; guitar solos rising like a warm sun over a crisp Winter dawn.
Elsewhere, there are still hints of experimentation; the flourishes of psychedelia on “Limited By Stature”, the rolling percussive waves and vocal grit of “Cheer Up/Blues Ending” or the fleeting tingles of Highlife that introduce “Corsicana Lemonade”. The latter track, held together by a percussive jazz-flecked jitter in Josh Block’s syncopated drumming, something which eventually gives way to the echo of Little Feat-esque, Mexicali funk. While “New Blue Feeling” with it’s shades of “Street Joy” allow for more tenderness to seep into proceedings, creating a warmth of ’70s AM rock balladry, which extends beyond it’s own boundaries and into lush album closer – and Jeff Tweedy produced – “A Place To Start”.
By distilling everything they have worked towards into a blistering blues/rock amalgam White Denim feel like they’re operating at the pinnacle of their creative powers. Despite being delivered with a simplicity that may deter some fans, it transcends these limitations becoming something which could yet prove to be their finest achievement. If their previous albums were the sound of cataclysmic blasts – of unhewn matter rebounding through the cosmos trying to manifest – then Corsicana Lemonade is the sound of their universe finally taking shape.