2008 debut album from the Texas trio, one of the most blogged-about artists in recent times. Their bluesy-rock sound has attracted interest from all over the globe, turning them from an unknown commodity selling their own CD-Rs at gigs to a hotly-tipped major indie treat in less than a year.
Austin's White Denim recorded Workout Holiday in a silver 1940's Spartan Caravan. If you'd caught their single Let's Talk About It you may have been slightly misled as to what they're about. Edited for radio, Lets Talk About It was a quick run through of garage rock past; here in it's entirety, the raucous drums and taut guitar rhythms eventually dissolve into a dub section that is at total odds with the amphetamine rush of the first few minutes.
The rumbling call and response of Shake Shake Shake also aims to deceive, presenting White Denim as yet another band who know how to rape the corpse of MC5 and The Stooges. Make it as far as Sitting, and they quickly scoot down another avenue, sounding for remarkable like a Paul McCartney parody. So far, so confusing, and yet so intensely thrilling.
I Can Tell harks back to the '60s with a sitar break and simplistic, almost minimalist rhythm guitar that manages to stab it's way into your subconscious with remarkable aplomb. Mess Your Hair Up mashes up Pavement and early Hendrix with exactly the kind of stupendous result you might expect: it stumbles out of existence in a muddle of feedback - perfect.
All You Have To Do is a perfectly formed chunk of scuzzy wah infused garage rock complete with thunderous drum solo and slightly fried guitar leads working their way out of the mid section like a slither of intensely angry worms. And then things start to get thoroughly indulgent.
It's almost as if half way through recording this album White Denim started to take Captain Beefheart really, really seriously. There's nothing as wigged out as Trout Mask Replica, but Beefheart's tangled up blues (particularly from Cool Spot era) must surely have been an influence. Look That Way at it repeats rhythm patterns until it becomes something of a magic ear piece. The more you listen the more it turns inside your head like a sonic kaleidoscope.
There are still hints of garage rock and blues to be found, but they're drenched in prog and free jazz. It's like At The Drive In making the progression from Arc Arsenal to Frances The Mute in a nanosecond, the change in White Denim's approach is that marked.
Still, there are still thrills to be had in the sheer confidence and bravery of the songs on display. Sure it's self-indulgent, but sometimes indulgence is no bad thing, and that is certainly the case here. White Denim justify the hype that surrounded them after SXSW, meanwhile we can't wait to see where there twisted take on the history of rock takes them next.
- Sam Shepherd