The Britt Daniel effect is alive and well in Indie Rock USA. The effusive frontman for famously consistent Texan quartet, Spoon, is making minor headlines of late with announcement of his new side project (Divine Parades) but the fact is he’s got his stamp on a heap of other sounds already.The man has remixed songs for Interpol, worked with Bright Eyes and offered proliferate production assistance to his favourite young band, White Rabbits. Now onto their third album, White Rabbits alarmed quite a few people by honing back their crazy drum assaults and settling in for a reliably, alternative-radio friendly groove. But what few people seemed to realise is it’s all part of their subconscious grooming to step into the hole that will eventually be vacated by their mentor’s band.
I wasn’t a big fan of most of Milk Famous, White Rabbits’ latest effort, when I first heard it, because it struck me as too safe in the scheme of what came before it. Specifically, it seemed a bit strange to follow an album that opened with ‘Percussion Gun’ with some standard 4/4 bass lines and homogenised noise. Having not been in a band long enough to put out one record, let alone follow it up, I’m not entirely sure of the process involved with these aural shifts. But I’ve read enough to know that much of it has to do with the guidance of who you’re working with at the time. Now, Daniel wasm’t across this album like he was the last one, but there are a few songs which have his signature all over them. Not surprisingly, they’re the best, and even less surprising, one of them is ‘Temporary’, which is so damn well-oiled and attractively passive-aggressive that when I heard it out of context on a playlist I was almost certain it belonged to Spoon. To be clear, that’s not an insult. Even when Spoon sound like Spoon – which is often – it’s remarkably enjoyable listening. So how do White Rabbits do it differently?
For a start, they’ve got a singer who isn’t much drawl as sprawl. The guy (Stephen Patterson) sounds like he’s perfectly at home with two girls dancing in boy shorts on his couch while he mixes another drink, that optimum blend of Brooklyn cool and skinny-jean swagger offset by jagged waves of guitar that you may have heard from their friends some ten years earlier. Daniels usually sounds a bit more urgent in his delivery, and by contrast, Patterson’s practically on cloud nine, his dreamy upper register positioned in deliberate counterpoint to the relentless groove that is literally Ga-Ga-Ga-Ga-Ga-ing for a Spoon-ing (I’m so terribly sorry for that pun.) I always find it interesting how bands who believe in themselves more – a direct result of having been around the traps for more than two seconds – can carry off simple progressions with such confidence and build onto them with such finesse that by the time you get to something like ‘Temporary’, you’re so caught up in the execution you forget all about how easy it is. It’s the small inspirations, like putting that offbeat, ascending arpeggio in the vocals across a pedalling bass note in the bridge, of multi-tracking the harmonies at certain point and leaving them naked at others, that makes ‘Temporary’ more than that. Evidently Britt has taught them much of what he knows, and they’ve combined it with their already formidable songwriting talent. We should all be so goddamn lucky.
White Rabbits – ‘Temporary’