WV White – that’s West Virginia White, named after those little mothlike butterflies that proliferate around the Rust Belt, moreso than the kind of Caucasian that lives in the namesake state, presently sprinting towards Conservatism despite itself – presents a debut album so long on ideas cribbed from music of the ‘90s that many others can’t stop from referring to them as “slackers.” But the songs and general presence of upset they push forth on this debut album speaks to a sort of collective mindset that’s carefully put together a sound from a veritable scrapyard of broken jewel cases and markdown-bin 7” singles in such a way that it speaks to all the lost hopes and stabs at profundity contained in such media-turned-clutter. Hardly the work of those who seem to be drifting through their lives, they have manipulated these influences to the point where their songs evoke feeling over reference. Their sound is one that’s so steeped in misery and cheap beer that its occupants have grown tired of averting their glances and push their sadness outward, crying at the table. In a time where the vox populi indie rock calls for warmth and safety, here is a peal of defiance, a refusal to take the medication prescribed in order to bask in the sickness of the self.
These ten songs are a fine start for any young band, a calling card for what they have accomplished and what they could become. Starting with the seven-minute dirge of “Alison Lapper, Pregnant,” guitarist Tyler Travis’ stompbox tone is so corroded and unseemly, it’s almost a surprise that he sticks with it through the length of the song, which couches somewhere between the Dead C. and Bailter Space – depressive riffs like freezing rain, and a hangdog vocalese that screams “hick” but edges closer to Eric Bachman circa Archers of Loaf (or, if you’ll have it, Mac from Superchunk trying to approximate Jonathan Richman). Nothing about these two elements brings any sort of comfort to the proceedings, and the plasticky church organ drone of Caeleigh Featherstone’s keyboard colors the atmosphere further with flushed, melted blues and grays, akin to Mick Alborado in the Terminals. If you’ve ever been too hot and too cold at the same time, particularly as a passenger in someone else’s car on a miserable day, you know where this is headed. And if you believe in the underground tunnel that connects Ohio to New Zealand, well, it seems as if these folks do as well.
As the record crawls on, WV White tries out a number of other sounds, too: the last call honky-tonker “Macha,” penlight anthems of grandeur (“The Mess,” “Multiple Bathrooms”), even sustained, low-key cinematic sweep in the beautiful “Mastercraft.” Throughout, one notices the conviction of sticking with certain tones and modes of play as an attempt to build a signature around this collage of ideas, which occasionally strikes against them – the thoughts of what this band could do with non-preset organ tones, a second guitarist, a more sympathetic studio environment, even artwork that looks less like a Magic Eye picture – are kind of staggering, and hopefully they can garner the support needed to make these things happen. Right now, though, this is the band, these are their songs, and it’s on, making for the kind of audacious downer not unrolled since The Young bummered my summer with Voyagers Of Legend some four years ago. May many more discover the chiming of their chains. (http://www.anyway-records.com)