[23 April 2012]
White Rabbits came out of the hat with magical, drum-propelled rock songs in 2009 on their second studio release It’s Frightening. Now they have turned up again with more of the same percussion and piano based songs with their third album Milk Famous. With sounds reaching from the pre-punk era to blue-eyed soul to ska revival to classic rock, this indie rock six-piece from Brooklyn continues to impress us with their unique sound. With not too much has changed since their second, the band’s latest album has a concentrated sound, yet on a deeper listen, it is glutted with an assortment of influence. Milk Famous is a thrilling sound phenomenon.
Shrouded in mellow, bubbly synths and rasping with slithery percussion, the album’s first song, “Heavy Metal” represses hiccups of heavy distorted guitar riffs which appropriately bolster hints of searing, well, heavy metal. Nevertheless, the second track on the album punches through with even more rigid metal riffs and sharp drum beats. However, there is also a refined quality to the song; “I’m Not Me” seems to flutter on delicate, yet distorted wings. The album’s third track, “Hold It to the Fire” has a definite Radiohead timbre with its longing vocals, sluggish guitar riffs and lingering piano harmonies. The song is actually quite suggestive of Radiohead’s recent “Lotus Flower”. Beginning with an eerie intro, sounding like a score that would play behind a scene of an alien abduction, “Hold It to the Fire” melts into bouncy and dreamy synths as well as a wealth of percussion sound. In fact, at times, the percussion instruments sound like a train, and listeners will feel as if they are getting close enough to actually hear the iron wheels thud against the tracks. In the chorus, front man Stephen Patterson’s vocals sound fogged in engine steam as guitars shrieks like a roused train whistle. This song proves this band’s remarkable ability to play with sound, making it easily one of the best songs on the album.
“I’m awake, so come on now” sings Patterson in “Everyone Can’t Be Confused”, and awake we all become. This song is just so snappy, tinged with blue-eyed soul and honestly reminiscent of the Fine Young Cannibals. With retro, effervescent pianos and playful vocals, this song is great for a summer drive – windows rolled down of course. The band’s second album gave us the thundering, percussion heavy hit single “Percussion Gun”, which was used during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Lively and completely captivating, “Everyone Can’t Be Confused” contains this same radio single quality that will also likely break the song into the commercial world. “Temporary” is a mesh of disco, classic rock, and pre-punk, sounding like an Electric Light Orchestra / Television collaboration. Ironically, with its catchy refrain of “it’s temporary”, this song is anything but temporary, leaving a threat of permanence in listeners’ heads. Other songs are also rooted punk rock sounds. For example, “Danny Come Inside” has a similar jazzy bass jive as Gaslight Anthem’s “Old White Lincoln”.
Drummer Jamie Levinson and vocalist and guitarist Gregory Roberts played in a ska band called the Hubcaps when they were in high school, and that ska influence remains manifested in their music now. Like the English Beat and the Style Council, without the blasting horns, ska revival flares up on songs such as “It’s Frightening”, “Back for More” and “The Day You Won the War”. Also, while so many songs on this album sound similar to Spoon, these two songs seem especially influenced by White Rabbits’ indie rock cohorts. Although their recent release isn’t all that different from their last, It’s Frightening, White Rabbits still have enough tricks in their hat to keep us engaged, and honestly, enchanted. Listening to Milk Famous is like playing a game of connect-the-dots. Running free with eclectic percussion sounds and choppy piano riffs, this album is where blue-eyed soul, Radiohead, Spoon, punk, and ska revival all come out to play, and surprisingly, all these sounds play nice together—this album is a satisfying musical experience.