It’s always a mystery why some bands do so well and some bands never amount to anything, at least commercially speaking. Obviously things like talent, showmanship, music quality, hard work and promotion all play a part, but controlling for certain variables, it’s still surprising to me how some bands become huge when I really can’t find anything about them remarkable one way or the other. White Lies is one of those bands.
First of all, I will point out that I like White Lies. I do. I saw them at Mao Livehouse last Sunday and they were solid. It was a good show. But they just didn’t strike me as remarkable in any way, so it’s weird to find out how successful they’ve been pretty much straight out of the gate. Their albums have sold well, which in today’s piracy terms means really successful. They’ve played loads of festivals and are doing a huge tour of Europe, Asia and America over the next year, which is no small feat and not something that bands can afford to do if their label doesn’t think they’re going to get a good return on their investment. So there must be something there, right?
I downloaded their first album To Lose My Life… and listened to it several times, and…yeah. It was good. Listenable. There was definitely nothing I didn’t like about it, except for the fact I couldn’t remember really anything about it as soon as it ended. And the show was the same. I went, and there were four vaguely attractive white British guys, all playing music that was fun and danceable and I had a good time. I was drunk. My friends were there and it was fun. And after…nothing. I didn’t really have strong feelings about the whole thing one way or the other. It seems like they may be one of those bands who when you ask people about them, say, “Oh yeah, White Lies, they’re alright” and that’s it. Nobody hates them. But they’re probably not anyone’s favorite band, either. There’s not enough passion either way.
This does sound really harsh so I just want to say again, I actually did like them. Would I go see them again? Maybe. If they were at a festival I was going to or playing with another band I wanted to see. Did I like their music? Sure. It’s indie dance rock, but maybe a little darker, along the lines of Arcade Fire or Joy Division or Interpol but, you know, not quite as memorable.
God, this review is depressing. It’s depressing me to write this. It implies that unless music inspires a divine passion in you it’s not worth being listened to, which is a whole other issue. Is that true? Does everything you consume have to enrich your life in some and make your existence better? Or is it okay just stumble through life, enjoying things just because they’re there? There’s so much product today, everywhere, so many choices — so much music and art and literature and TV and film and podcasts and information and it seems insane to waste what few previous hours you have in this world experiencing something that doesn’t give you something valuable in return.
On the other hand, fuck it. Do what you want. Who am I to tell you or anyone else what to listen to? I went to see White Lies. I enjoyed it. I probably won’t remember in a year’s time but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think it really matters.