To be young is to be sad, Ryan Adams advised, and nobody does young and sad better than the British. Joy Division, the Cure, Depeche Mode — these divinely mopey souls have provided the world with endless nights of blissed-out misery so exquisite that, for generations of listeners, happiness became forever overrated. In the 21st century, this country has done its best to co-opt Britain's '80s gray-sky sound with homegrown groups like the Killers and Interpol. But as demonstrated by the new London trio White Lies on To Lose My Life, the problem with our bands isn't that they're ripping off their elders' torment, it's that they don't do it shamelessly enough.
Part of the immense appeal of To Lose My Life is its melodramatic ridiculousness. Singer Harry McVeigh can't go more than two songs without referencing death in all its bedroom-diary glory — a funeral sets the scene for the contained anguish of "From the Stars," while the title track conflates ardor and oblivion in ways that only a pining high school freshman understands. But it's not just McVeigh's theatrical croon that sells these songs; the juicy arrangements are plump enough to hold all the romantic angst and dreamy wistfulness that one could want. An American band would be embarrassed by something like "The Price of Love," a gushing three-act tragedy about a hostage negotiation. But what makes White Lies so successful is that not only does the band take such nonsense seriously, it actually makes it resonate.
White Lies play Wednesday, April 1, at the Blind Pig, 208 S. First St., Ann Arbor; 734-996-8555. With Friendly Fires and the Soft Pack.
Tim Grierson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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