Unfocused though not unenjoyable
Psychedelic rock band White Denim greets spring with their nine-track, half-hour album Side Effects. The thirty minutes shoot by quickly, lingering on the six-minute “NY Money,” and “Head Spinning,” for its haunting chorus that seems eerily familiar by the second listen.
These guys have a fair amount of musical talent but they don’t seem to be kings of making songs that will please the masses. No, obviously it is neither the goal nor the duty of all bands and artists to make music that is easily digestible – if it were, then we would be hearing even more of the same songs over again, and the variety in styles would hardly be noticeable – though it should be the goal of most artists and bands to gain more followers. A common way to achieve this goal is by gradually changing how they write songs or what type of music they write, hopefully, while reeling in more listeners. If money really isn’t an issue, then sure, bands can continue playing niche music and not worry concern themselves with ticket sales and streaming numbers, and that just might be what White Denim does.
Side Effect is not likely to bring aboard that many new White Denim fans, but it should keep past and current enthusiasts afloat. Atypical meters (track two is in five-four time for much of its run), muddled lyrics, and idiosyncratic sounds (the farm animal intro also in track two) are precisely some of the aspects of White Denim that likely keep fans around and turn prospective listeners away. It is no mystery that making bold choices in any field will leave several seeking pleasure elsewhere, and Side Effect is a prime example of this. For those who like to walk into the world of a song, marveling at its ability to paint such emotional details in under four minutes, walk elsewhere, for these tunes don’t conjure up colors, photos, or places of past or future, but rather sound like regular old music.
If becoming a White Denim fan is a bucket list item, then getting through this album several times should be easy on account of its run time, though the swiftness at which it speeds by can also be a disadvantage, with few moments sticking to memory in each successive listen. Again, there are probably some pretty flowers for White Denim fans to pick up and smell here, but overall, Side Effect is not going to appear on any “Best of 2019” lists. Take a risk, give it a listen.