White Lies, Crocodiles

Alex Nelson 06/02/2011

White Lies' recently released second album 'Ritual' is a stigma of mediocrity, a record cheating its way to greatness, drowning in its own overproduced keyboards and false strings; the sound of a band tediously picking through the motions because that's what people expect. Sort of like a ritual then. Hurr hur. It falls to their formidably tight and professional live show to win me over tonight, much as they did with first record 'To Lose My Life...' many festival seasons ago.

First up: San Diego's Crocodiles, who I first witnessed in May of last year helping A Place To Bury Strangers tear Norwich Arts Centre a new one with their brand of Echo & The Bunnymen influenced noise-rock. Tonight though, the immediacy, volume and crackly feedback distortion of that first set are lost and muddied in the expansive room that makes up the UEA's LCR (lower common room) and the batch of songs of offer this evening seem somewhat lacking. By the end of the set though, the sound has been rectified dramatically, and the guitars are just about audible (!) for the final two songs, including a rousing rendition of 'I Want To Kill', as frontman Brandon Welchez wraps himself around his microphone stand with typical hipster cool, before guitars come to rest on amps, the random feedback swells the only sign of Crocodiles' displeasure at the seemingly unresponsive crowd.

White Lies have their work cut out for them as they are up against some pretty tepid material. True, the choice cuts from their debut sound as beefy and note-perfect as ever - the ironic uproar of'Death' proving something of an absolute belter - and a rare few of the plodding new album = tracks are given something of a kick and sheen in the live setting, namely the chiming synths of 'Peace & Quiet'. But the crippling banality and mildly ridiculous vocal tumbles (including that line, repeated back to the band by the crowd in a show of collective infamy) of i'Streetlights' - a song so wearisome it threatens to stop all together and send itself into reverse at any moment - cannot be saved.

The fact that the band have to leave the stage mid-set to sort an otherwise unnoticed guitar fault (the band are flanked by a further three auxiliary members, one of whom is clearly triggering samples on a laptop, one on keys and one on second/ lead(?) guitar), only serves to prove that beneath White Lies' searingly epic exterior, is a man.

The band play solidly and totally on form throughout, and despite the languity of the newer material, the older songs still manage to shine through and provide many highlights of the set. 'Farewell To The Fairground', 'Unfinished Business' and the title track from that debut 2009 release 'To Lose My Life' are all as purposeful as they ever were, and manage to save the show from falling into the lower ranks of a reviewer's scoring systems, whipping the crowd into a frenzy as they do so. The few half-decent tracks from 'Ritual' are also on fine practice tonight, 'Is Love' revealing its wakka- wakka guitars in a flurry of rhythmic drumming, and 'Strangers' providing the first jump about chorus of the evening.

They end on latest single 'Bigger Than Us', as the final song of their sort-of-encore, sort-of-actually-just-the-end after their mid-set guitar muck up, a song which could sit comfortably in the ranks with any material of the first album's stature, and a definite high note with which to end on.

White Lies' put on the impregnable performance we have come to expect from the band, with the new songs translating well to the live arena. It's just a shame they were never that great to start off with, otherwise we may have had a truly outstanding performance on our hands.