Review: White Denim - Corsicana Lemonade

It’s White Denim’s ill fortune to play in a market oversaturated with decent white-boy rock.


Listening to Corsicana Lemonade reminds me of buying a couch. There are a lot of couches out there, they’re all pretty similar, and you probably don’t need two. But, if you don’t have one and need somewhere comfortable to sit your tuchus, it’s as good as any.

It’s White Denim’s ill fortune to play in a market oversaturated with decent white-boy rock. At their best, they remind me of similar bands I like more (Thickfreakness-era Black Keys, the long-lost Morning Benders, Tame Impala, and even White Denim’s own incarnation on D, Corsicana’s much more impressive predecessor). It’s a warning sign when the album’s strongest calling card is a resemblance to things I’ve enjoyed in the past.

Internet darling “Pretty Green” exemplifies the problem. It’s probably the best of the standard rock jams, but it stops there. An inoffensive blues progression, little guitar tricks filling the gaps between the mostly ignorable lyrics. They sound like they’re fiddling around in a pop-rock workshop, mixing and recycling their favorite tropes and loops. When Petralli wails about “carbon copy portraits in a box that [he] was shuffling through,” all I can think of is Corsicana Lemonade itself, all replications and emulations.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the song. I like it the way I value a decent neighborhood restaurant with a lunch special that’s cheap and filling. I’ll eat there if it’s close to work, but I’m not going to bring my friends from out of town. Inoffensive to a fault.

Perhaps, I’d be more satisfied if I just listened to Petralli’s advice: “If it feels good, let it feel good to you.” How applicable to their music. Enjoy Petralli’s pre-chorus laugh, and smile with them. Indeed, on “Let It Feel Good” they come close to hitting their elusive niche, a happy, intensely listenable combination of psych, pop, and blues. Petralli makes good use of his delicate voice: a fragile vibrato that sounds pleasantly out of step with the hard wooly blues.

It’s pleasant. Should that be enough?

That attitude reminds me of a college friend who went to a lot of shows. If she knew the band, but the music bored her, she would meet them after the show and say, “Oh, it looked like you were having such a good time!”

And I could have a good time listening to this music too. It would be great for a bar, or a hook up. It’s vaguely good. It would never distract you. But I can’t shake the feeling that it’s a record made by someone who’s read about rock, but never listened to it. Technically, it’s well executed. There’s just nothing extra. People say don’t reinvent the wheel, but this isn’t a goddam wheel. It’s rock 'n' roll. Its existence is predicated on revolution.

Every once in a while, a bright spot will shine through. About a minute out from the end of “Cheer Up/Blues Ending”, the song drips into the all too common let’s make some noise ending, screeching with drum and guitar nonsense. Quickly, though, they update it with a nice, tinkling guitar line that fades into a soft psych synth. For “New Blue Feeling” they employ a wobbly guitar reminiscent of the standouts from D, and stumble, fortuitously, into a pleasant high-pitched breakdown to end the chorus. It’s interesting enough that it makes you wish they’d spent more time changing it up.

At the very least, the album ends on a high note. Titled, “A Place to Start,” it’s also a good message for the band. Work from this. Slow down, back up, and look at what makes this quiet, psych-inspired jam unique. True, not every album needs to make a statement; sometimes it’s just nice to have music to listen to with your eyes closed and your brain off. But they can do better.

Of course, while an album this middle of the road may not be destined for obsessive private listening, it has its place. Next time that special someone comes over, try throwing this bad boy on the speakers. It’ll sound great when you two are on your brand new couch, and no one’s going to interrupt you to ask who’s playing. [C+]