My apologies for the late arrival of this review but the sheer workload that is piled on me from this site means I tend to stop listening to a record once the review is done, and I really didn't want to stop listening to this. It seems as far as indie music is concerned all the ideas these days are coming from the US and arriving hot on the heals of the recent No Age record, White Denim's Workout Holiday not only reinforces this perception but positively hammers the point home.
Having been stuck in my car with only this CD for company, Workout Holiday has literally been thoroughly road tested and due to the nature of this listening experience I started formulating some driving metaphors in my head. One of the most exciting features of this band is what I call their 'gear shift' capabilities and by that I mean their penchant for ditching an idle pace for a sudden and electrifying upshift. So I started comparing this record to the experience of, as a youngster, trading your crappy 1 litre MG Metro for a one-time-only excursion down the road in your dads car. But then comparing this band to a high performance dad-car couldn't be further from the truth, I would have to leave that to a Metallica album. No, White Denim is more like getting into the same piece-of-shit Metro with the rusty body-work, decrepit brakes and highly questionable frame, only to find someone has switched your 1 litre engine for a super hybrid piece of engineering complete with flux capacitor that runs on plutonium.
Workout Holiday is highly charged, punk-infused rock that knows no boundaries or limitations. It comes from the Austin, TX trio following their 2007 debut 7" EP Lets Talk About It. It features 4 tracks from the EP which is slightly disappointing, but has become one of the most exciting records to bombard my eager ears for some time. White Denim walk the precarious line between genius and utter chaos, with each song fooling you into thinking it has no clue where it's going. It's ramshackle guitar chords race headlong into the distance with the makeshift rhythm section struggling to keep up, and the vocals erratically punctuating this mess when and where they feel like it. The result is an electrifying run of songs, no two alike, that never end where they start and this unpredictability seems to catch you out every time, making each listen a unique experience.
The EP tracks still form some of the strongest of these 12. Both Lets Talk About It and the following track Shake Shake Shake follow similar structures with furious, guitar driven first halves being taken down a notch at the midway point for an emerging instrumental ending that constantly threatens to finish but, as if with shear enthusiasm, keeps going and going. Sitting changes the pace with a bar-room singalong that sees singer James Petralli opening the vocals like Anthony And The Johnsons. It's a jaunty little number and the most conventional on the album.
Mess Your Hair Up seems to embody this band perfectly. It's opening section is a pretty non-descript mess of buried vocals, but as the mess gets thicker the feint screech of a guitar chord rises from the bog and takes the song off into unforeseen territory. As usual the band seem to be enjoying this change-up so much that they keep it going, reinventing different drum patterns just as the song should be finishing. Towards the end of the record comes a late heavyweight in the form of Don't Look That Way At It. Opening with a sound as erratic as a bucket of marbles being poured over a guitar, it sets up a bubbling cacophony of noise that trickles along at a steady pace, it maintains this complex and crammed formation until the midway point where the fuel injectors kick in The deep drums suddenly give way to crashing snare and cymbal and the complex guitar arrangements are smoothed out to driving chords. It's impressive to say the least.
The two instrumental songs here, Look That Way At It and WDA, sound less like conscious decisions to give space to the record and more like a band who are making things up as they go along and are way too into their instruments to bother with vocals, which may be in there somewhere but have been long buried beneath the ever mounting layers of sound. And this goes some way to describe this album. Each song stumbles into the other and the record just delivers idea after idea without becoming precious about any. They'll set up an impressive first half then tear it down like reckless hooligans. And here lies the diamond in this rough album. A better record may well crop up this year but I doubt if I will see such a reckless approach to an album. As one idea is discarded for another you get the impression that this liberation comes from a knowledge that there are more to follow. You get to the end of the album and instead of wanting to rewind you want to hear the next record, but as this isn't possible you'll have to settle for back to back plays. Highly recommended.