Short collections as engaging as this one aren’t so easy to come by.
White Lung – Deep Fantasy
Earlier this year, I wrote here about my disappointment with Perfect Pussy’s Say Yes to Love , and cited its length (or, rather, lack thereof) as one of its major flaws. It’s easy to get the notion, then, that I think albums need to be a certain length to succeed, but read more closely — this isn’t why Say Yes to Love failed. That album was a letdown because its shortness blurred all its songs together into one murky, indistinct, relatively uncompelling unit; when it wasn’t doing that, it was disguising noise as melody. A few moments stuck out in this haze, but not enough to excuse such a short runtime.
By contrast, White Lung’s Deep Fantasy, their debut for Domino Records (but their third album overall), is fifty seconds shorter than Say Yes to Love, but it’s far more cathartic, show-stopping, and memorable. Deep Fantasy is rife with guttural riffing, mountainous percussion, and harrowing vocals courtesy of feminist blogger Mish Way, and this formulation very rarely tires over the album’s twenty-two minute runtime. Fantasy‘s lyrics, which deal with topics such as consoling a rape victim, overcoming drug abuse, and living with body dysmorphia, are as potent and intense as its instrumentation; both these characteristics expertly recall the grunge and riot grrrl movements.
Deep Fantasy blazes through the gate immediately with opener and lead single “Drown With the Monster”, arguably the most addicting punk anthem of the year so far. Actually, the punk label adorned here is a bit misleading: “Drown With the Monster” verges on heavy metal territory. The rapid, churning guitars underlying its verses wouldn’t sound out of place on a recent Exodus album, and Mish Way’s vocals are delivered in a wailing beckon faintly reminiscent of any of Arch Enemy’s rotating female lead vocalists. In its two minutes, “Drown” tackles Way’s substance abuse with fearlessness and vigor; in fact, by turning her problems into a veritable headbanger of a rally cry, she’s drowned the monster in its place.
“Down It Goes” follows, and it begins in a similar vein as “Drown” before transitioning into sunny, beachy grunge-punk, something like you’d hear on an early Sleater-Kinney tune. “I am not as strong as you, but I am everywhere!” Way affirms over an instrumental palette that’s just as serene as it is alarming. “Snake Jaw” and “Face Down” continue this sonic path, but each refines it differently: the former adds a tad more bleakness to match its lyrical exploration of body dysmorphia, whereas the latter may be the most outrightly grungy, 90s-absorbed tune present.
Of course, a band as fierce as White Lung will only briefly allow itself this moment of relative sunshine: “I Believe You” reintroduces the heaviness and force of “Drown With the Monster”, and covers more territory than many of Deep Fantasy‘s songs despite being the album’s second shortest. “Yeah, I believe you! Girl, you’re so strong!” Way reassures a friend recovering from the trauma of rape, a powerful moment made even more intense by her band’s intermittent, dark guitar pummels and searing treble lines. “Wrong Star” offers a moment to breathe after “I Believe You”, trading in the latter’s heaviness for a less overwhelming tone, but no slower a pace.
“Just for You” and “Sycophant”, which follow next, in that order, are slightly less gripping than the rest of the album, marking one of Deep Fantasy‘s two very mildly less engaging sequences. “Lucky One” breaks up these two moments, its unreasonably shrill and rapid guitars instantly hooky. In particular, the song’s chorus is really entrapping, as its low-rumbling guitars offer a surprising and engaging change-up from the song’s mostly bright but enthralling riffing.
Ending the album is “In Your Home”, a track that’s notably different from the rest of the album. Easily the slowest (although it’s still pretty high-tempo) tune here, “In Your Home” gives up some of the near-omnipresent aggression of Deep Fantasy in favor of an unexpected bit of melancholy. Although the song is likable, it’s not quite as viscerally enjoyable as the rest of Deep Fantasy, but its placement as the album’s final track does offer a necessary comedown from the rushing adrenaline preceding it.
“Take these sights in!” commands Mish Way near the beginning of Deep Fantasy. With just twenty-two minutes of runtime, this album rarely loses focus, keeping listeners in line all the while. Short collections as engaging as this one aren’t so easy to come by, so it doesn’t take much effort to become entrapped in this Fantasy.