The time: deep summer, 1976. The place: a lake, or possibly a quarry. The scene: a raucous bar-be-que, the scent of grilled meats, cold beer, cheap weed, and sweaty bodies comingling in a seasonal bouquet of good times and bad decisions. The sounds: White Denim’s D.
Over the course of three albums and a few EPs, Austin’s White Denim have established themselves as Texas’s foremost purveyors of… what exactly? It’s hard to say. Theirs is a sound – garage / psyche / jazz / punk / whatever – nearly without precedent, and yet reminiscent of some truly rad styles of yesteryear. Mixing extreme technical proficiency with an unadorned love for high volumes and high energy, these dudes — James Petralli on guitars and vox, Joshua Block on drums, Steve Terebecki on bass, and Austin Jenkins on guitar – sound like they’d be just as comfortable touring with the Stooges and the Minutemen as they would the Allman Brothers or, I don’t know, Zappa maybe?
Not that this is, like, a jam band or anything. White Denim’s first couple of LPs, 2008’s Explosion and 2009’s Fits, were some next-level garage rock epics, reveling in Petralli’s fleet fingered six-string attack (he sounds like he’s inventing notes to play; he must have inherited his hands from his dad, former major league catcher Gino Petralli) and the un-fucking-believably solid Block-Terebecki rhythm section (one of the best in the biz right now, for real; they must be heard to be believed). D adds Jenkins on backing axe, giving Petralli the freedom to stretch out a bit more, and the result is 37 minutes of your mind being blown.
The ten tracks on D run the gamut from riff-heavy freakouts (“It’s Him!,” “Anvil Everything,” “Is And Is And Is,” “Bess Street”) to Zeppelin III-style acid ballads (“Street Joy,” which boasts the single best solo on the record, which is saying something), to blissed-out psychedelia like “River to Consider,” piling on flutes and woodblock and sparkles and still managing to rule (in a hippie sorta way). Throughout, the band takes twists and turns you never saw coming, pulling hooks out of hats and taking the tunes to out there and beyond, while managing keep everything grounded in a solid foundation of red-blooded rawk. This stuff is spastic and volatile, but hyper-precise and intricately thought-out, too. There’s not a note out of place, ever, but White Denim never sounds fussy or sterile, just really, really focused.
But maybe the most impressive thing about D is how unafraid it is to sound like it wants to sound, which is like nothing else. White Denim play like they’ve never heard of charts or gold records or SoundScan or any of it; they play like they couldn’t give a good goddamn what anyone thinks. Not unlike North Carolina’s Birds of Avalon, White Denim seem perfectly content to chart a bizarre path into the guitar racket outlands, pulling from ‘60s protopunk, ‘70s southern guitar gods, and ‘80s indie. It’s a strange trip, but if you wanna come along, well come on, then.
And you should totally come. D is hard to categorize and even harder to forget, and it’s one of the best things to come out of Austin in a long time. This is the sound of a band just getting started.White Denim - D,