White Lung, “Paradise”

White LungWhite_Lung-2016-Paradise
Paradise
DOMINO
7/10

Life, in the most pessimistic sense, is a never-ending succession of pain. Violence, poverty, mental illness, addiction, and death surround us all. “This is a sad, sad life,” Mish Barber-Way sings in the chorus of White Lung’s “Demented.” We wake up each morning hungry and fall asleep gutted. In our Western society, there’s always a desire for more—more money, more love, more opportunity, more truth, more respect. But, occasionally, we’re OK with what we have, what we’ve built, and who we have become. Within that acceptance, actual progress can still be made.

On White Lung’s dynamic fourth album, Paradise, growth is the name of the game. Originally from Vancouver, the group continues to make progressive (and personal) shifts from their early punk rock roots. With help from producer/engineer Lars Stalfors (Matt and Kim, Cold War Kids, The Mars Volta), the band returns with their distinctly energetic sound more polished and accessible than ever.

As with 2014’s Deep Fantasy, every song on Paradise was crafted in a different key. The tracks are noticeably longer and mixed tighter. Barber-Way’s vocals are still spacious, but they’re also more present, upfront, and often doubled. “Below” is one of the most prominent examples of the group’s new approach. The track, which is about preserving glamour and beauty, is a lustrous punk-meets-pop amalgam consisting of tastefully layered guitar, sample-enhanced drum hits, driving bass-lines, and sharp vocal delivery.

For the past decade, Barber-Way—an outspoken feminist and columnist for sites like Broadly—has written songs about everything from body dysmorphia to rape culture. Her lyrics are raw, candid, and very direct. But on the band’s second effort for indie label Domino, she takes a large step away from her personal life to sing about other people’s stories. As a result, there’s less frustration embedded throughout the release. “Kiss Me When I Bleed” is a rebellious anthem about a prideful, confident girl who runs away to be with a man who lives in a trailer park. Similarly, title track “Paradise” is a love song that begins with the lustful lines “And I want to run with you / We’ll so go far they’ll never hear our copulating.”

White Lung has always wrangled catchy hooks into aggressive (sometimes messy) rock, but the band has refined this idea on their new record. Instead of continuing to rehash frantic two-minute capsules, the group is unapologetically evolving. With Paradise, White Lung’s newly presented dark-pop sensibilities never detract from their ever-tireless playing. And now, as Barber-Way sings, “we’re all hungry for it.” 

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