1. Is Love
3. Bigger Than Us
4. Peace & Quiet
6. Holy Ghost
7. Turn The Bells
8. The Power & The Glory
9. Bad Love
10. Come Down
Even Music is Plagued by its Past – 7/10
The White Lies are your best example of a today’s band with a yesterday’s sound. Having released merely two albums, To Lose My Life from 2009 and this one, it’s safe to say the 80s synth-pop is on full comeback now. Ultravox got back together in 2010, Duran Duran is back in the picture with All You Need Is Now, Keane has dropped signs of 80s synth-pop on their Night Train EP and of course the White Lies have been given a record deal. There’s nothing wrong with a little nostalgia, is there?
“Not at all”, you’d say when you hear the White Lies. On their debut album To Lose My Life they showed a good combination of today’s Britpop mixed with the 80s synth-pop style, which was to large success. Heavy guitars, dominant synths, explosive choruses and a typical 80s pop-vocalist. To big fans of To Lose My Life, Ritual ought not to be a disappointment, although some changes have occurred since 2009. Most notable are the even more dominant synthesizers. A lot of these songs are downright Ultravox songs in terms of sound. You could wonder if you are listening to a new album by a relatively new band or to Rage In Eden. Nope, this is definitely a new band, says the front cover. The guitars have also been mixed a lot more to the background, letting the synthesizers gaining the upper hand on rhythmic and melodic ground. The vocals by McVeigh are still as dreamy and typical as before and also the choruses are still as explosive as ever. But, this album has one problem… it is a lot less catchy.
Yes, you need to listen at least a couple of times to each song to ‘get’ it. It’s a lot less straightforward than To Lose My Life, which opened massively with “Death”. Ritual’s opening track “Is Love” doesn’t brag strength or fire power at all, but rather takes it the ambient way. Actually, I would not say it’s a good way to open the album. It’s a real fine track, but does not set a mood at all. The bridge of this song is really annoying, courtesy of McVeigh. With “Strangers” the White Lies perfectly introduce their newer sound by using a chorus of the type that featured a lot on the debut record, but infusing it with the Ritual sound. The result is quite nice, though arguably outdated. The same goes for lead single “Bigger Than Us” with its grand chorus. “Peace & Quiet” takes things into the new direction. Computerized drums open the song and the sound becomes more subtle and relies on the cold atmosphere of the synthesizers. This is followed with the equally cold “Streetlights”, which is notably less notable than the previous track. “Holy Ghost” and “Bad Love” are two highlights on this cold album, each standing out for, respectively, their danceable rhythm and nostalgic ambience. “Turn the Bells” and “The Power & The Glory” are two nice examples of ‘how to create your atmosphere with synthesizers’. Perhaps it’s a bit lame to constantly mention the synths, but at times when listening, that’s all you really hear. “Come Down” ends the record very gently and ambient, but not very strong. It seems the bad side of this album is the weak start and the weak end.
In short, I think this album should not be neglected by the fans of To Lose My Life. The album is weaker at the debut’s strongest point, but this shows other strong sides of the band, which makes it worth listening to, though I must warn you, don’t expect anything highly original. Most of it you could have heard in the 80s a thousand times or so. Still, I recommend this to fans of synth-pop and to pop/rock fans in general. It’s worth a few listens at least.
Strongest moments: “Holy Ghost”, “Bad Love” and “Strangers”.
Weakest moments: “Streetlights” and “Come Down”.
8 hours ago