A three-piece from West London, White Lies originally performed as Fear Of Flying but then changed their name to reflect their increasingly dark songwriting. They deleted their old MySpace (yes, they’ve been around that long) and emerged under their new moniker, which reflects ‘how we see ourselves’; White Lies ‘protect the upsetting truth of the bands lyrics’, according to The Sun. Garnering airplay from Zane Lowe, they appeared on NME’s ‘New Noise’ tour in 2008 and pushed back the release of their debut album by five months ‘to build up media hype’. It worked, with To Lose My Life going straight to the UK number one slot on release.
If it sounds like I’m gently taking the piss, that’s because I am, but it’s entirely affectionate. White Lies were what I thought ‘Indie’ sounded like when I was 17, having graduated from The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand. I am a fanboy in the truest sense of the word. Theirs was the first gig I ever drove to; they swaggered on to the stage at Newcastle Academy dressed all in black, except for singer Harry McVeigh’s polished silver Nikes, matching his chrome guitar, and gave an impeccable performance. Since then I’ve seen them several more times, both their own shows and at festivals, and they’ve never been anything less than brilliant. Their new album came out on Monday; if you want a warm-up before you dive in, here are my favourite five songs from the first two:
From The Stars
The first White Lies song I ever heard, and still the only iTunes free single in my library that I actually listen to. It’s a story about a man who attends a funeral, told over a drum beat and violin combo suitably paced to make you aware of the twist in the tale. The suggestion that material wealth doesn’t make us happy isn’t exactly a new one, but it’s in keeping with the band’s ever-so-slightly-off-mainstream image, and it does make for an anthemic track. It’s a particular live favourite of mine too.
Farewell To The Fairground
Probably the song White Lies are best known for, although I can’t work out why this is - maybe the fact that the single release features a cover of Kanye’s Love Lockdown as a B-side or maybe the fact that it was covered by one hit wonder and ginger unicorn La Roux on Radio 1’s Live Lounge. The band have said the song was written in a hurry; it certainly doesn’t suffer for it, with an energy and a passion that over-production might have removed from some of their others.
Bigger Than Us
The first single from their second album, Bigger Than Us put any fears that White Lies might have radically changed direction to bed. Yes, it’s more of the same, but more importantly it’s just as good. There’s a shift towards more obviously electronic effects, especially during the needlessly epic but brilliantly singalong chorus, but the band stick to what they know. There’s an emotionally charged story, the obligatory anthemic chorus and a couple of fantastic instrumental crescendos that make it musically impressive as well.
Turn The Bells
A bit of a left-field choice (so left-field in fact that there is neither a video nor a live version), but if we’re talking epic, Turn The Bells can’t be ignored. The intro feels like it should soundtrack helicopters landing special forces on Planet Krypton, and McVeigh’s voice fits perfectly with the dystopian metaphors which make up virtually the entirety of the lyrics. It doesn’t necessarily make sense but it sounds amazing.
As close as White Lies are ever likely to get to a properly emotional break-up song. It actually seems to be about death; dark, brooding and self-referential, one of the lyrics is ‘You keep on telling White Lies to the little kids’. A live favourite initially featured on the vinyl release of their first album, and then on it’s own as a download in 2009, accompanied by a brilliant video (below), it avoids being too pretentious by being a great song in it’s own right. You can tell ‘real’ fans at gigs by whether or not they know the words to this one.