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White Lung Push Their Searing Rawk Beyond the Red on ‘Deep Fantasy’

White Lung / Photo by Rebecca Smeyne
SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Label: Domino

Led by the stern and fearsome Mish Way, who seems to proclaim the end of the world every time she sings, Vancouver’s furious White Lung make a magnificent racket that’s also a looming dead-end. Relentless, punk-inspired pounding, especially when you’re this good at it, leaves few honorable alternatives for the future, because less intensity suggests a suicidal surrender to maturity, or craven pandering to the mainstream.

Way and her equally pushy accomplices, guitarist Kenneth William and drummer Anne-Marie Vassiliou, take halting baby steps on a new path with this third outing, which mostly sticks to the terse, take-no-prisoners attack of its predecessors. (At 10 songs running a grand total of 22 minutes, Deep Fantasy could be considered an EP, but the energy expended would fuel a dozen less-strident longplayers.) Here, the production is cleaner and the songs feel more constructed, in contrast to the blurry hardcore blast of their earlier outbursts, and Way even flirts with a melody or two. Meanwhile, William expands his portfolio to include shrieking thrash-metal riffs and hints of U2’s The Edge, though the nimble and brilliant Vassiliou remains content to make every speedy groove an excuse for precision brutality.

Given the thorny matters on Way’s mind, it’s not surprising that Deep Fantasy feels downright grim at times. The songs are stuffed with massive quantities of anger and self-loathing, images of dominance and submission, and body issues worthy of David Cronenberg’s most unsettling films. On “Drown with the Monster,” she rants about “the garbage in my spine,” shouting, “In his white hood/ Redneck disease/ He fills my mouth/ Weakens my knees/ Now I am gutted/ Down to the floor,” which, like many tracks, could refer to substance dependence or bad romance. Elsewhere, there’s biting, squirming, choking, screaming, spitting up and other displays of physical and mental distress. Way also finds time for a little dark humor, exclaiming, “I ate your infection/ But I’ll never pay your rent,” in “Lucky One.”

Deep Fantasy is exhausting, cathartic and a little scary. What’s next? Not respectability, hopefully. Slow down “In Your Home” or “Snake Jaw” and the result might be a horrible power ballad, while guitarist William is an avowed fan of Johnny Marr, whose elegance is the antithesis of the band’s current clatter. Unwilling to repeat themselves to death, and unsure how to grow up gracefully, White Lung will likely struggle to evolve. But it will be fun to watch them try.