In a week when The UK’s newest and blokey-ist radio station, Radio X, ran a poll revealing that their punters probably stopped listening to music in 1997 and declaring 4 out of 5 of the top songs of all time were penned by the Gallagher brothers, it is refreshing to be writing about a band who some how manage to embrace a time well before the “lad rock” era as well as current musical trends.
Whilst White Lilac have a clear love of the post-punk early eighties and the shoegaze and dream-pop worlds of the early nineties, there is a lot more at work on their latest release, Unwelcome Wishes, than mere backward glances through rose-tinted eyewear. For me the centre piece of this handful of songs is I’m All Colours, a song that links kaleidoscopic, Summer of Love grooves with trippy Stone Roses vibes and modern underground pop and there is even time to tip a hat to The Jesus and Mary Chain and that is never a bad thing. Around this jewel they spread more subtle treasures, Swimming Under veers between Kate Bush atmospherics and Banshees style urgency, the start stop dynamic of Change of Face are great and the minimalist strains of Swallow act as the perfect swansong.
And in this age of conformity it is the blend of their less expected instrumentation, Cello and Saxophone, that really helps define their sound, the former delivering brooding, dark canvases on which they paint their songs, the latter providing sensual and soaring interludes as required.
Some will point to the production of the record being a slight disappointment, but White Lilac have always revelled in the cottage industry approach and I for one applaud it. It reminds me of a time when independent labels with no money did their best to polish gems as best they could, gems which went on to become, for example, The Cocteau Twins who in many ways are perfect reference for this band, and bands who held song writing, atmosphere, emotion and passion to be more important than how much money you could through at a studio boss.
There has recently been a movement back towards a 4AD referencing dreamscaping indie sound which has filtered down to the lore grass roots levels with bands such as Wyldest, Colour The Atlas and Polar Front all riding that gentle wave, but for my money it is White Lilac who seem to be the most interesting – non conformists, no label chasing, no product endorsements, no concessions to fickle fashions, just a blend of musical past with present and a far more interesting future ahead of them. Watch this space.