There’s an overlying theme of fun and feistiness that permeates White Denim’s new record, Stiff. The Austin, Texas quartet sound determined to shake off whatever hangover is still lingering from their recent lineup change, and come out revamped and refocused on their rollicking new batch of tunes.
The group still manages to fluidly blend southern-fried garage rock, soul, psychedelia, and funk on their sixth studio effort, showing no ill effects from the recent shakeup to their tight-knit core. Following the departure of guitarist Austin Jenkins and drummer Joshua Block, frontman James Petralli and bassist Steve Terebecki regrouped, brought in veteran producer Ethan Johns to help capture their live energy in the studio, and enlisted guitarist Jonathan Horne and drummer Jeffrey Olson to round out their sound. Both new guys provide a restless punch that energizes the new material as well as the veteran members of the band themselves.
White Denim made it immediately clear that Stiff would be a raucous affair straight away with their dynamic lead singles, the updated Allman Brothers churn of "Holda You (I’m Psycho)", and the lively swing of "Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)". Both tracks boisterously anchor the front half of the record, while also setting the upbeat, buoyant mood that courses through the entire album.
The group let their foot off the gas ever so briefly at the midway point, elegantly slowing things down a bit with the smoothed-out, Al Green-like soul of "Take It Easy (Ever Lasting Love)". But things quickly pick back up on the rambunctious second half, with light, playful echoes of Grand Funk and the Monks ringing within "Real Deal Momma" and "Mirrored In Reverse".
White Denim partnered up with Cass McCombs to write the uplifting closing number "Thank You", which serves as an affectionate tip of the cap to the indelible sounds of Stax, Motown, and Muscle Shoals, as well as a fresh twist on the wide array of musical styles that continue to live on within indie rock and modern pop, as well as in the hearts of everyone in White Denim.