It’s tempting to hold bands responsible for their press materials — after all, they have some participation in their creation, right? A band’s quotes are sprinkled throughout the one-sheets that accompany the record when it lands on the unassuming writer’s desk, so it’s safe to assume that the band members communicated with the PR folks on at least some level. This, of course, opens a can of worms.
Virtually every band cringes when asked about their “official” bio. “We didn’t write that!” they protest. “I never would have said that!” Ah, but it’s THERE, you see. So the comparisons given by the PR firm or label lodge in a writer’s mind before the record is even listened to. A set of expectations is created, and seldom, if ever, does a band live up to the names tossed out so carelessly in comparison.
I’m bringing this up is because accompanying the debut release from New York City’s White Light Motorcade is an official “bio” written by the good folks at Girlie Action Media. Now, I love the folks at Girlie Action. In the six years I’ve been a music journalist, they’ve always been good to me. Having said that, though, when I read the names the Stooges and the MC5 in White Light Motorcade’s bio, I had to shudder. Virtually no band can live up to Iggy Pop circa 1969. And the MC5, backed by the fearless John Sinclair, was a product of the tumultuous politics of the decade in which it wielded its rock and roll power. Those eras can’t possibly be recreated by any band, let alone on its debut record.
So White Light Motorcade started at a disadvantage. Lucky for the band, the record is a solid effort, moving between infectious power pop, straight-ahead rock anthems, and what emo could have been if it were played by bands weaned on something other than the shit-rock that passes for punk nowadays. The first two songs on Thank You, Goodnight (“Open Your Eyes” and “It’s Happening”) are downright ballsy, much more in line with good old-fashioned rock than the neo-blues of the White Stripes or the Strokes. These WLM Songs might be based in the blues, but they are more electrified and bass-driven than the stuff played by Jack & Meg or Julian & Co. It’s much more — dare I say? — Van Halen than Lightin’ Hopkins. Which is a tasty thing in this age of modern corpro rock. “It’s Happening,” in particular, calls to mind Queens of the Stone Age with its propulsive drumming and hot guitar flourishes. At 2 minutes and 47 seconds, it even lends itself to possible radio play.
Tracks three and four (“All Gone Again” and “My Way”) mellow out a bit, giving a hint that WLM has more up its sleeve than three chords and a stack of Marshalls. These are pop songs, stretched out and tweaked with literate lyrics and a layered delivery. In particular, beautiful harmonies and restrained guitars haunt “All Gone Again,” creating a sweeping, epic rock song. And at this point, it’s necessary to go back to that whole “bio” issue. Supergrass and Muse are cited as two of the band’s more modern influences. And this I can agree with, though I would add Smashing Pumpkins and the Dandy Warhols to the list as well.
“Semi Precious” is the album’s strongest, most fully realized song. With a driving bass line and a verse-chorus structure that alternates between hard rock and sticky-sweet pop, the song is a great bridge between the raw immediacy of creating a song and the polish a studio can give it.
The rest of the album continues on the same path. “We Come Together” definitely has the Pumpkins’ vibe in the vocal delivery of lead singer Harley Dinardo. A few of the songs are merely mediocre, which is understandable given the fact that this is WLM’s debut. As the band matures and gains consistency in its songwriting, its albums are sure to even out. While it would be naive to suggest that WLM may one day earn its comparisons to the MC5 and the Stooges, it’s altogether possible that if Iggy Pop or Wayne Kramer were to hear the band’s music, they would not be displeased.