I got into the office this morning and found that someone had left a message on the White Denim album blogI posted a while back. “I saw White Denim tonight, it read. “I just wasn’t expecting the various angles and paces that would be involved. They were fookin’ superb.”
And goodness, they were. Much as I approve of “Workout Holiday”, I wasn’t expecting them to be quite such an amazing band live either – especially since I’d only just seen the reliably marvellous Hold Steady down the road at the HMV store. But this was my favourite Club Uncut thus far, a riot of fearsome garage freak-out virtuosity.
White Denim, it has to be said, are an A&R drone’s worst nightmare: a band who write great, catchy rock songs, then do everything in their power to obscure them. They begin with the archetypally snappy “All You Really Have To Do”, though this isn’t really apparent until they’ve been playing a high-energy prog-punk intro for the best part of five minutes.
This, it transpires, is what White Denim do. For about 45 minutes, they hurtle almost unabated through a series of exhilarating jams. There are thunderous breaks, spindly Hendrix solos, sputtering fusion passages driven by the child bassist, the odd dub zone, fractious psychedelia, hollering soul-punk and, somewhere in there, awesome little songs. It’s an explosion of joy, more or less, typified by James Petralli’s gleaming eyes and transported grin as he sings – in a voice, incidentally, with much more lusty power than you’d imagine from listening to his records.
Most often, he sounds like Rob Tyner, and The MC5’s manic, rampaging ambition is probably the most obvious influence on all this – the sense that garage rock can incorporate jazz and anything else it likes without losing any of its incendiary power. The MC5 thing is most noticeable when “All You Really Have To Do” suddenly transforms into “Mess Your Hair Up”.
We keep thinking, too, of The Minutemen, and their understanding that, far from being a reductive punch, punk rock can hold all these ideas in its skinny frame. Or maybe it was that bassist, Steve Terebecki, and his plaid shirt that reminded us of Mike Watt.
Best of all, I reckon White Denim might just be one of those bands that you’d never exhaust of seeing, because you’d never be able to accurately predict which circuitous and thrilling route they were going to take to their songs.
Great night; next month is going to be pretty special, too. But I can’t talk about that right now. . .