[Album Review] White Lung - Paradise
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Release Date:  May 6th, 2016
Label: Domino

2014’s ‘Deep Fantasy’ was something of a 21st century classic. Needless to say, doing any kind of follow up is an unenviably daunting task. If you read their press you’d get the impression they were going about it the right way. Guitarist Kenneth Williams said they wanted it to sound new, and singer Mish Barber-Way said they wanted to progress with the best song writing they’ve ever done. Sounds great. Problem is, what may seem innovative to certain musicians doesn’t necessarily sound fresh and new to the listener. Bottom line with ‘Paradise’ is that when White Lung stray from the solid gold formula they created on ‘Deep Fantasy’ they end up regressing, not progressing.

On the first five tracks the band pretty well sticks to the aforementioned formula, creating music that falls short of being truly memorable but is serviceable nevertheless. Whenever a song threatens to become mundane Williams is always there to save the day with his flourishes, most notably on “Kiss Me When I Bleed” where he nimbly shifts from glam rock shimmering to heavy metal chugging in the space of a heartbeat. Way’s voice is still engaging, even though there is noticeably less snarl. Any of these five tracks could be slotted into ‘Deep Fantasy’ without anyone noticing, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.

“Sister” kicks off the back end of the album with real promise. There’s an undercurrent of americana to Williams’ rock’n’rumble guitar as the band relates the grim story of Canada’s most hated killer. Although Way does not have that punkish bite she once had, the urgency in her voice here demands attention as she takes on the gruesome persona of Karla Homolka. At the mid-point the song takes an eerie lull, as Way growls menacingly and the guitar jangles with odd incongruity. If only the rest of the album was this good.

The balance of the album should be where things get more interesting, but that simply is not the case. “I Beg You” and “Paradise”, in particular, hark back to the ’90s. Not the glory days of Nirvana or Soundgarden, mind you, but more the time of vacuous stadium alternative rock, when countless bands moaned and ground out their guitars without saying anything particularly meaningful. If this is where White Lung is headed then maybe they should go back to formula.

‘Paradise’ is not a terrible album, in fact it is quite a worthy successor to ‘Deep Fantasy’ in many respects (especially the first half). However, a bold, innovative step into 2016? No, that it most certainly is not.