1. Is Love
3. Bigger Than Us
4. Peace & Quiet
6. Holy Ghost
7. Turn The Bells
8. The Power & The Glory
9. Bad Love
10. Come Down
”Bigger Than Us”
Following on from the success of their 2009 debut, To Lose My Life, (UK #1 album, over 1m units sold), it is no surprise that White Lies have gone back to the pseudo goth/new wave sound that served them so well. What is a surprise though, is that, having produced an entertaining and energetic album previously, they should now have created something that is underwhelming at best and outright tiresome at worst.
To put it bluntly, Ritual is an album that takes what feels like an eternity to listen to. The band has evidently decided to ramp up the epic for their sophomore effort, attempting to make every song a monolithic, stadium filling masterpiece. This approach would be fine for a few of the 10 tracks but doing it on each one has resulted only in an album that plods along so slowly that if it raced a Hare and a Tortoise, the Tortoise could take a nap halfway round and still beat it. In “Strangers”, vocalist Harry McVeigh declares, “I got a sense of urgency/I got to make something happen”. If only it were true. The majority of songs clock in at around the 5 minute mark, it feels a lot longer.
That said, individually, some of the songs are not bad. Undoubted high water mark is the lead single, “Bigger Than Us”, which is full of drama and a hook that Duran Duran would’ve killed for in the 80’s. Like a fine red wine, it is rich, textured and full bodied. “Streetlights” and “Holy Ghost” are also fairly decent, moody pop songs, even if “Holy Ghost” opens with one of the worst lyrics you’ll hear this year. “You were writhing on the floor like a moth in molasses/whoever taught you to move your body like that?”
Ah yes, the lyrics. You can’t fault the amount of effort that has been put in to Ritual but often it comes off as a band trying too hard to touch the soul of the listener. The depth and profound intensity they so desperately try to create, plays like bad, angst ridden teenage poetry. “I pressed my ear against your chest/and heard something personal/a whisper that knew my name/is this how your heart/treats all strangers/with love and affection/then I feel cold and empty.” Cold and empty is actually a reasonable description of how you will feel after listening to the album.
Ritual is designed to be a vast album, so epic that no stadium is big enough to hold its aural magnificence. In reality it is nothing more than a very disappointing follow-up to their debut album. The attempt to deliver deep, philosophical songs that touch the very core of the listener has caused White Lies to lose focus of what brought them to the dance in the first place, the ability to write catchy, energetic songs, tinged in melancholia. By trying oh so very hard to create a masterpiece they have only delivered an album that drags on forever and is largely forgettable. Songs like “Bigger Than Us”, “Streetlights” and “Holy Ghost” deserve a lot more support than is offered by the remaining 7 tracks. White Lies are capable of so much more than this, hopefully they’ll learn from their mistakes for their next album.
A version of this review first appeared on 411Mania.com