The Size of Our Souls

White, a recently emerged quintet from Boston, Massachusetts, represent everything that has been missing in rock music during the last five years – sincerity, passion, and an ability to give an adequate modern interpretation to the past genres. This band is everything The Answer are trying (and not exactly managing) to be on this side of the Atlantic and what the Black Crowes would have been had they had a heavier sound and more diverse influences.

White refer to their own music as ‘explosive sex rock’ and I guess there couldn’t be a better description for what they do. Their kind of sexiness has a fiery, intense quality to it, the exact opposite of the sterile glitzy sensuousness of glam metal (the style which is being revived now in the UK) or the cold, detached sexiness that was de rigueur among nu-metal and industrial bands in the beginning of the decade in the US.

‘The Size of Our Souls’ is the first album by White in the current line-up. It erupts with ‘No Love Lost’, an emotional, hot-blooded and direct rock song. This track boasts a great blues riff adapted for a rock format where White, having learnt an important lesson from Led Zeppelin, took a basic blues phrase and turned it into a killer rock riff by changing its pace and accentuation and giving it an extra oomph with a bold, self-assured execution.

What makes this track really shine though is JonnyP’s vocals. This singer’s voice is amazingly vivid – it is all about sheer vocal power, emotion and genuine ability, and at times it startles you by exposing a gaping vulnerability into which his sincerity on occasion leads him. He doesn’t believe in holding back, being obscure or subtle. Instead he shows the courage to allow in his singing a direct expression of feeling, which he does without a trace of fear or timidity.

Guitarist Jim Foster has obviously been listening to Jimmy Page, Paul Kossoff and Delta blues guitarists, but has still managed to develop his own sound and attitude. Having a keyboard player instead of a rhythm guitarist is usually a cunning way to add an extra layer to a band’s sound while giving as much exposure as possible to the lead guitarist, avoiding his parts being lost or buried under another guitar. In this band the approach works wonderfully and Foster is a guitarist who wholly deserves this exposure. He may not believe in elaborate phrasing, subtle changes in volume or other refinements, but what he lacks in introspection he makes up for by intensity and vigour. He is a natural musician, spontaneous and candid, and knows how to translate emotion into his sound. While technical skill is something that often remains underdeveloped in a lot of blues rock guitarists, Foster is a different kind of player. Technically he is totally competent, showing an ability to play fast, blistering solos as well as unhurried, measured passages.

It is certainly tempting to describe White as a blues-rock band, but that would be too narrow a definition for their music. Some of the tracks on this album are inspired by completely different sources, for example ‘Lost Inside the Fire’, a song which succeeds in combining contrasting moods, has such obvious references to prog rock in general and Pink Floyd in particular that it would be unfair to simply box this band into the blues rock genre.

White’s interest in creating atmospheric vibes doesn’t end there. This theme continues in ‘River Song’ – a psychedelic account of resentment and disillusionment – and reaches an apogee with ‘The Size of Our Souls’, a nine-minute gloomy, dark and unsettling track. ‘Ten Years Ago’, by contrast, is a dynamic song and is a strange mixture of metal and blues rock. It is an exciting and intriguing track and is packed with ideas enough for three songs.

I guess White can be best understood in opposition to the mediocrity and blandness of the majority of modern rock acts. Their take on blues rock is fresh and definitely more robust and focused than the most energetic efforts of the Answer, as White manage to recognise something deeper in this genre than their Irish counterparts. What White offer is a modern and vibrant vision mixed with the classic and timeless tradition, an inspiring combination which this band achieves by respecting the rules and requirements of the past styles and a courage to be creative with them.

While there is some struggle for style in this album, this is made up for by vivid and intimate execution – I, for one, have allowed myself to be swept away by the energy emanating from White. At the times when rock music shows an inclination toward becoming rigid and repetitive, it is reassuring to know that there are bands around who are aware of what real rock is about – clarity of insight and lack of fear.

‘The Size of Our Souls’ is out in December 2006.

Guest article from Alyssa O.

Written by Guest Writers on

Between 2003 and 2009, [the-mag] had regular contributors from music correspondents covering their local scene. You'll find them all in the guest writers section. The specific writer is mentioned at the bottom of each article.

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