Hello friends. Man, what a long week it’s been here in the hundred acre wood. Have you ever had that experience of going on a week-long holiday only to return to your place of employment and find out there’s pretty much the entire previous week’s worth of work waiting for you? Well, if not I advise you to not do that. It’s quite a nasty affair, really. I get back Monday morning from my sabbatical in the wet and muddy woods of Brown County Indiana only to find out my good pal that I’ve worked with for 16 years now decided to take this week off and leave me with all the shite he didn’t get done. On top of all that we were having visitors from our Memphis plant in today and my boss wanted the dock area spic and span.
Well kiss my grits.
Anyways, I’ve made it to the half way point to this hellish week being done so I’m happy about that. My wife has been on a painting kick this week. She’s painted and redecorated both of the bathrooms in the house and tomorrow will be painting the kitchen. She had her stamp club tonight(stamps as in stamp and ink to make cards with, not like stamp collections that serial killers have.) So I told her I’d pull everything off the walls in the kitchen and dining room, patch the holes, and wipe down the walls. Well I did all that and now I’m ready for bed…but not before I have a Rogue Mocha Porter and talk about a great sleeper and grower of an album, White Hills’ Walks For Motorists.
I’d realized just the other day I never wrote a proper review of the new White Hills’ long player. It occured to me that the reason for that is because the album really didn’t click with me at first. Since the winter of 2013 I’ve been gorging my psyche with White Hills, ever since a certain blogger wrote this article. Everything I’d devoured by them seemed to only make me stronger; invincible even. Upon listening to Heads On Fire I had the ability to read minds. When I finally got H-P1 in the mail I gained the ability to create fire with my mind(as well as make a mean Beef Stroganoff.) By the time I reached So You Are…So You’ll Be, well let’s just say I may have had a hand in taking down both Robin Thicke AND Paula Deen(Donald Trump, you’re next you schmuck.)
By the time Walks For Motorists was announced I was more than excited. It felt like an event of sorts. First single “No Will” was released and….I was kind of on the fence. It wasn’t bad, not by a long shot. It just didn’t seem to go anywhere for me. No wall of noise…no frazzled explorations of space and time. It was a driving rock track pushed along by Ego Sensation’s fuzzed-out bass. Good, but I had to hear more. Of course I preordered the deluxe vinyl package and when it arrived I listened two or three times in a row. I had a hard time breaking into the record. There were standouts, for sure. But it wasn’t really keeping my attention. So I put the album to the side and it sat for a couple months.
Then, last week I listened to the album out of the blue at work and something clicked. What I mistook for kind of so-so was really just a sonic switch. I knew they had gone about this album differently, recording in the UK with a British producer of more bass and dance-heavy bands. But I guess my mind was still stuck somewhere in the middle of H-P1s excellent “Paradise”, or Heads On Fire’s “Don’t Be Afraid”. White Hills is a band that does vast, expansive walls of sonic assault better than nearly anyone(except for maybe those bands that influenced them…even then..), so when they give us an LP filled with tight, groove and bass heavy songs I get a little worried. Well what I heard last week was not what I heard back in May. I heard the White Hills mission statement not changed, but amended a bit. This is Ego Sensation’s album to shine. She carries these songs with her fuzzed-out groovy bass lines like a champ. Dave W seems to have put his Les Paul down in favor of some serious analog synth wizardry. The space and vastness is still there, it’s just contained into tighter universes where there’s a hallucinogenic dance party going on inside the dilapidated, ghost-ridden space station.
The end of the world is nigh, so we might as well shake our booty’s till the oxygen runs out.
Seriously, after further consideration Walks For Motorists is probably the most consistent and tight White Hills record yet. My doubts about “No Will” are out the window as sonically this track is just tight as hell. David Wrench has done his production magic here and given White Hills something they have never really had before on an album: low end and separation. Always before, the White Hills experience always felt like an “all for one, one for all” kind of thing in the sonic department. There was little distillation between the bass, guitar, vocals, and drums. They were all there, but they all became this one, massive wall of noise. What stood apart from those basic elements was the mood; the atmosphere and vastness of darkness loomed about the room. It enveloped you as you listened. It seems that with Walks For Motorists Dave W and Ego Sensation decided it was time to take their dark grey production and give it the technicolor treatment. The results are pretty stunning.
“£SD Or USB” is all chugging bass and wheezing synth with a subtle motorik beat, with Dave W’s vocals hanging somewhere in the ether. “Wanderlust” is wonky, fuzzed-out bass with some of Dave W’s best dystopian vocal lines. He sings “Not right…not right/Some of us will be kings/While others go to work/Lying face down in the dirt/Not right”, followed by some of his patented wah-wah guitar shreddery. The true highlight for me is “Lead The Way”. This is song really does epitomize badassery. “I’ll give you the night/My offer is wings/With language/I bend the sky”. Offering wings? Bending the sky? That’s some seriously trippy, dystopian love shit right there. I bet I could’ve gotten a date with Becky Hughes in the 8th grade had I offered her wings, or shown her I could bend the sky. I bet I could’ve even gotten a peck on the cheek. Maybe. “I Nomad” makes me feel all tingly. It’s the sound of an androgynous android creating the power to feel love. It’s the soundtrack to the creation of self awareness in specters just beyond our world. This is the kind of noise excursion that made me fall for this band in the first place, guys and gals. Follow that up with the fuzzed-out-to-the-max “We Are What You Are” and all’s right in our puny little universe(until the little green men get in our skulls.) “Automated City” sounds like INXS’ “The Devil Inside” being haunted by Wire’s The Ideal Copy and a hungover New Order. Title track “Walks For Motorists” is nearly 7 minutes of groovy drums, a buzzy, fuzzy bass line, and voices echoing and repeating that is reminiscent of something David Byrne and Brian Eno might have done back in 1981. Truly groovy and inspiring stuff.
And like the last record, if you ordered the deluxe vinyl you got the bonus 12″ Drives For Pedestrians. It’s a half hour of experimental jams and sonic excursions that were too awesome for normal consumption. They had to put it on its own 12″, and at 45rpm. It’s essential White Hills, people. “Origins IX” and “Manimal Tribe” are especially essential.
Okay, so I’ll admit when I’m wrong(but I rarely am.) I was wrong to be so dismissive of this excellent album. Walks For Motorists should be where the world notices White Hills finally. Hell, they should’ve noticed when they showed up in Jim Jarmusch’ Only Lovers Left Alive. But, since that didn’t happen, now’s the time. C’mon world. Here’s one of our best, creative, and inventive rock and roll band’s making music. Let’s give ’em the love they deserve. That’s an order.
It’s good to be back amongst my blog-ian brethren. I’ve got some good stuff coming up real soon. Some great band features, some albums I’m re-exploring, and maybe even a haiku or two I’ve been working on. Okay, no Haiku. But that other stuff for sure.
Time to go fill some more holes in the wall.