White Denim Hit Pop/Prog/Garage High Point With ‘Side Effects’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

White Denim never seems to stop making music, their combination of engaging, thought-provoking; off the wall bat shit pop/prog/garage rock successfully rolls on with their newest release Side Effects. It arrives only a few months after 2018’s Performance but is a throwback to their earlier days as demos; outtakes and lyrics from the group’s past efforts were mined, reshaped and given new life.

The album was spearheaded James Petralli and Steve Terebecki who produced things and brought in other players including their touring band (Michael Hunter – Keys, Greg Clifford – Drums ) to round out the various tracks. Opener “small talk (feeling control)” hits different tempos, flavors and chaotic modes, containing the earliest lyrics Petralli ever wrote for the group and packing a hell of a lot into its brief run time while the energy stays high for the warbling, grooving, sound effect-laden “Hallelujah Strike Gold”.  

The centerpiece of the record is a three-song run which is really one long musical idea, flowing through “NY Money”, “Out of Doors” and “Reversed Mirror”. The opening/longest tune “NY Money” is a driving pop gem (finding a close parallel with Petralli’s work as Bop English on the fantastic Constant Bop) ending with a blissful space exploration sound dripping into the gorgeous acoustic picked “Out of Doors”. The midsection slowly injects loops and odd sounds before moving into the bass-driven, galloping “Reversed Mirror”; this track in particular but the complete run (and the album as whole) highlight the band’s Frank Zappa influences gloriously.

Outside of this trio, Petralli and Terebecki throw genres into a blender and pours out incredibly tasty results. “So Emotional” is an off-kilter pop-rock tune while “Shanalala” is pulsing drum machine burner which would have been at home on a sci-fi 80’s movie soundtrack or in Spy Hunter.  The final two tracks play with hardcore punk during the brutal “Head Spinning” and bizarrely clanging electro-funk on the closing “Introduce Me”. Never afraid to experiment in the studio all of the tracks carry appealing flourishes in their audio nooks and crannies even if song to song style changes can be jarring.      

The mixtape feel of Side Effects makes for a disjointed overall listen, but the highpoints, smooth midsection and overall frantic nature means there are very few down moments. Longtime fans will find a lot to like as will those new to the White Denim party.  

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