Published Jan 30, 2019London, UK post-punk trio White Lies likely felt some pressure during the lead-up to the release of Five, their aptly titled fifth album. The excellent Big TV in 2013 saw the band expand their sound and scope to great effect, leading to what seemed like their best work to date, an achievement its followup, 2016's slightly underwhelming Friends, failed to replicate, leaning more heavily (although by no means inexpertly) into mainstream pop song-craft instead.
Thankfully Five mixes these two impulses well, featuring some of the group's catchiest work to date while still offering more challenging elements that reveal themselves over time.
That said, opening track "Time to Give" starts things off with a bit of a stumble, bloating its runtime to seven-and-a-half minutes via an extended vamp session that does not pay off. Most listeners will likely prefer to start the album with "Never Alone," a perfect example of the kind of soaringly melancholic sound the band have been distilling from their goth and new wave influences for the last decade. "Finish Line" continues to impress, with a three-part structure that gently plays with listener expectations in just the right way, and features an unexpected bridge full of what sounds like duelling xylophone and marimba — whatever's going on, it works.
The irresistibly rousing "Tokyo" is the track most will be talking about, however, its dazzling synths easily making it the sunniest tune the band have ever cut (press material suggests legendary producer and synth-master Flood lent out some of his collection for the album). Lyricist Charles Cave remains as gloomy as ever though, detailing the frailties and failures of human relationships with his usual poeticism, describing someone as "the driftwood of love" at one point.
It all amounts to a strong album, one that should appeal to both modern, Editors-loving synth-rock fans, as well as older New Order, Joy Division and Cure heads who remember from whence it all came. (PIAS)