Off the back of a reasonably well received EP release in 2014, White Reaper’s full length is a twelve song, thirty-four minute blast of urgent, garage punk that manages to combine melody, hooks and a raw edge that on repeated listen becomes more and more engaging.
The lead track, ‘Make Me Wanna Die’ marks out the territory of the record nicely. Snarly rock and roll with massive drums and fuzzed up vocals that conjure up visions of late 1970s New York. You could imagine this blasting out of CBGB’s and a ton of sweaty kids going wild. Definitely that kind of vibe.
Do The Ramones still have a lawyer? Did they ever have a lawyer? Get him on the phone. ‘Pills’ is an audacious, but well executed kidnap of that musical heritage. White Reaper has stolen those familiar 1960s style pop choruses and hidden them in the basement with some vintage amps and a bag of heroin but it’s done very well and is similarly addictive.
‘Last 4th of July’ sees White Reaper taking a bottle of vodka to the high-school prom and slipping it into the punch. It’s just over a minute long and is basically the sound of what you wanted your teenage years to be if you’d grown up in the USA. Close your eyes; it’s a sunny mid-western day and you’re going to the 7/11 for a milkshake – probably in a convertible Cadillac. That’s what it’s like.
Last 4th of July by White Reaper
Tony Esposito’s vocals do take a little warming to despite being excellent. The swagger is evident and the sneering execution is impeccable but the distorted loud-hailer vocal effect, ensures that while there is a laudable commitment to create a signature sound, using that same vocal effect over the course of a whole record can start to grate. Juxtaposed with this though is some beautifully clean keyboard work – almost as if they got their mate’s classically trained sister to fill in because, you know, some piano would be cool. Nevertheless, it sounds wonderful. Especially on ‘Sheila’ where it cuts through the guitars and really shines.
What I do love about this record is that every song is really well crafted. Every chorus is one that you can sing along to and in these days of pretentious bands who sacrifice a good tune for meandering not-actually-as-clever-as-we-think noodling shite it’s refreshing to hear something so unpretentious.
Each short stab of a song is a foot tapper and although there’s very little in the way of innovation here and there probably isn’t supposed to be – they’re garage pop-punk after all- at least it’s not another guitar/drum duo. What you will find is an enjoyable record where there is a commitment to a sound and a scene and an evident joy that despite yourself, you’ll find yourself returning to.
Reviewer: Nick Wesson