[29 July 2012]
A little over halfway through Sorry, White Lung’s sophomore album, Misha Wray is feeling down on herself: “Too dumb to get a life,” she snaps on “I Rot”. “You’re the first one, I’m the last one, always going down.” Rough put downs to be sure, one that places her inside the long and proud history in punk music of hating yourself, then others. But with Sorry’s raucous feel, it becomes clear that whatever personal misgivings Wray has about herself, she and the rest of White Lung were smart enough to keep the intensity of their first album going.
That album, It’s the Evil (released, like Sorry, on Deranged Records), was a electric atom-smash of dance and pop-punk, a tornado of hiss and fury, especially the Real Housewife-hating single “Atlanta”. Sorry’s opener, “Take the Mirror”, starts right where “Atlanta” left off: “Take the Mirror” has guitar riffs that call to mind skiing down a mountain, being chased by thousands of icicles ready to stab your beating heart. “I talk to the seats, stomp with your feet, but I get around your neck” she says in a way that’s faster than it seems. It can be a struggle to keep up with with Wray’s vocals, she’ll say one word slowly, pause, and then let the rest flood out like a broken dam. Don’t take that as a bad thing, of course. Coming in at 1:55, it’s a promise of mosh pits to come.
Shades of hardcore past blanket Sorry on no track more so than “Glue”. Slightly threatening guitars abound on the album, but only “Glue” has got that biting sarcasm that’s associated with the Dead Kennedys, Sleater-Kinney (specifically “Dig Me Out”), or for that matter, It’s the Evil. “You’re a dead horse running, I’m out for you!” on a track called “Glue” is pretty great. A two minute and eleven second sneer, “Glue” has Wray planning the revenge of some unseen oppressor “with bony eyes, with bony eyes!”. It’s such a brilliant Barnum detail that it could turn “Glue” into an international anthem of rebellion, if it gets enough play on the radio or Tumblr or wherever teenagers get their organic punk music these days.
Sadly, “Glue” is also Sorry’s seventh track, which is around the time you realize that the songs on the album all sound pretty much alike. It’s a good thing that White Lung never deviates from the intensity that they started with, but it can make an album frustrating when they draw from the exact same well, over and over again. Guitars mesh together, they all have some version of that electric riff on “Take the Mirror”, which loses a little shock every step of the way. A track like “Bag”, which by itself is pretty good, gets lost in the shuffle when three songs just like it came before. There’s an attempt to branch out with some reverb on “Those Girls” that falls flat. Wray has a powerful voice, high-pitched and ready to dominate whatever sonic landscape is placed before her. White Lung just hasn’t figured out what else to do with it yet.
Of course, it’s not like repetition of Sorry will haunt you all day, there’s not a song on the ten track album that’s over 2:30. The band races through the tracks with considerable skill, but it’s not something that’s meant to be listened to front-to-back. Pick three tracks, headbang in your room, put on something else. Sorry’s good, but it’s all just a variation on the same theme. Not the worst problem for a band to have, but a problem all the same.