Never the timid type, the boys of White Denim -- vocalist/guitarist James Petralli, bassist Steve Terebecki, and drummer Joshua Block -- have always flaunted their many sonic guises with gusto. And so Fits opens with a very Beefheart-reminiscent “Radio Milk How Can You Stand It.” Boasting fluctuating time signatures, jangled guitars and a punctuated, uncoiling bass line, “Radio Milk How Can You Stand It” goes through as many changes as there are words in the title. Almost. It’s an appropriate opener for Fits, an album that thrusts its listener into a '70s-drenched, rock-heavy landscape of frenetic tempo changes, amped-up guitars, and reverb-laden vocals before ever arriving at anything accessible or easy on the ears.
That’s kind of the charm of these guys; they don’t necessarily want you to know just how radio friendly and accessible they can actually be. But when arriving at tracks like the effortlessly tuneful “Regina Holding Hands” or the psychedelically catchy “Mirrored and Reversed” well into the second half of the album, you begin to realize the full range of sounds White Denim can generate. Take a track like “Say What You Want,” which unleashes an Eastern-inspired sitar solo in the middle of a Hendrix-infused jam session, and the kaleidoscope of genres and eras encapsulated into each track become evident.
It’s also worth pointing out that as good as White Denim is at riling up your inner animal, they can also charm its socks off with tracks like the jaunty, upbeat “Paint Yourself,” which opens with a lively acoustic chord progression that soon erupts into lo-fi pop bliss. Fits finishes with “Syncn” (the title a play on the songs protagonist’s heart both “sinking” and falling into “sync”), the most effortlessly cool track of White Denim’s brief career. Washes of sneer and picked electric guitar swirl around Petralli’s beautiful falsetto, weaving gorgeous melodies around a menacing yet fragile arrangement. It’s a wonderfully unusual end to a wonderfully unusual record.
White Denim refers to its sophomore release, Fits, as the Friendship Record, which effectively guided them in and out of good times and bad, toward a stronger connection as a band. As the follow-up to 2008’s Workout Holiday, Fits is geared more toward the personality of the group’s erratic live performances, the blending of music, and the art of improvisation. Here, White Denim juxtaposes jazz and soul influences against its usual noisy garage rock and mixes the vocals into each recording as just another instrument in the process.
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