This unprecedented shift of contemporary rock bands toward the tropes of classic and prog rock is a head scratcher. On the Decemberists’ new one, the humble folk strums have been supplanted by Fripptronics and Midlake’s admittedly excellent Van Occupanther disc owes more to late-’70s Fleetwood Mac than nearly any other musical forerunner. Ditto WW1, on which former members of Butterglory and emo-est of emo, Get Up Kids, plunder David Bowie’s and Marc Bolan’s glam years and set them on a high seas adventure.
Ramshackle ballads like Arcade Fire-esque “The Admiral” creak and spark alongside inexplicable ethnic weirdness like “I Love Lovely Chinese Girl,” which owes a debt to Colin Meloy’s globe-wandering character studies. Boasting perfect arrangement and melodies, “What’s An Ocean For?” and “One Prayer” are definitely mix tape bound. Not everything in the band’s cannon is smooth though. The sticky/sweet synth bass on “We’re Just Temporary Ma’am” gums up the works of an otherwise fine song. The same can be said of the breakbeat garnish on the verses of “Fidget and Fudge,” it’s a poor complement to the space opera unfolded in the song’s choruses. At times singer Matt Suggs’ effete delivery feels too weak to suit the music when it strives for rockier waters. In the end, it’s a minimal complaint. These guys are already steering themselves in the right directions, it would be too much to ask for them to have already arrived at perfection. White Wale are closer to that goal than bands that have been around much longer.
Merge Records: www.mergerecords.com