On this day in 2009, White Lies released their seminal debut album To Lose My Life... Here I celebrate its anniversary with a few cobbled thoughts.
Not only is the imminent White Lies album – their fifth – aptly titled – Five – but so too its release date, which comes just two weeks after the 10th anniversary of their debut, the darkwave masterclass To Lose My Life… released on January 19th 2009.
I was in my early twenties when White Lies came about – heavily into moody, morose indie and still dealing with the hangover from earlier neo-gothic contemporaries who had since vacated their best form; namely Interpol (best form 2001 – 2007) and Editors (best form 2005). There was a spot open and White Lies took it.
Though White Lies were forever compared like-for-like with these masters of noughties darkwave – and rightly so to a point – I found these direct comparisons lazy from the large publications. It seemed to be used as a needless competitive stick to beat them with, as though no other band had ever allowed the influence of others to creep into their music before.
White Lies were their own take on moody indie, make no mistake, and in actual fact had more in kinship with the likes of The Twilight Sad than Editors of ’09 (who incidentally the same year released In This Light and on This Evening so, you know, if we’re comparing). White Lies had a song writing depth that wasn’t rivaled - principle wordsmith and bassist Charles Cave’s words were bleak, maudlin, desperate and, for a misery like me, totally brilliant. They called their opening track ‘Death' for heaven’s sake.
Despite a small scatter of frankly daft aspersions, the canny populace concurred: To Lose My Life… was something special, the euphoria sending it straight to Number 1 in the UK album charts, which seems truly bonkers looking back from our so-modern disattached world of digital slurry, but in 2009 the UK charts were (just about) something that still meant you were at least significant.
That opening duo – ‘Death’ followed by the title track ‘To Lose My Life’ – could easily be argued as the finest introduction to any album of the last decade. The latter is a track easily up there in the ten best singles of the past decade for my money – my lousy wailings of “Let’s grow old together and die at the same time” at various gigs, festivals and house parties still very much committed to memory.
And ‘Death’, with its rumbling bass and understated kick drum that builds the song up for four entire minutes. The reward at the end is a bursting 60-second climax which heard live could be just about the most glorious minute of my twenties.
There were others of course; many friends’ favourite 'A Place To Hide' or gig-pleaser 'Farewell To The Fairground'. My own other close favourite being 'From The Stars', a protracted tale of one’s fall from grace (bleak again, of course).
Follow-up album, 2011’s Ritual didn’t quite land. I always felt it was a little ‘stadium’ for many of the early fans. 2013’s Big TV was only just short of the standard set with the debut, though it never created the same hubbub as the world moved on to other, more terrible things.
Today the fanfare has long since lessened and White Lies press on, an unassuming niche prospect these days playing smaller venues to sets of hardy fans. But press on they do; five albums in ten years isn’t to be sniffed at, one of which a significant underlining of my twenties. And much like their darkwave contemporaries, such as Editors or Interpol, you still get the feeling that White Lies have something really special still to offer. Perhaps Five is it.
Today we greedily consume more and more music – much of it digitally dumped as though it were never real to begin with. I often find myself frustrated when I almost forget the big, physical – and totally significant – releases of my sort of youth.
So for today it’s back to where it began; 21 years old losing my shit while To Lose My Life… gets a run-out courtesy of the boastful deluxe vinyl boxset - a shining beacon of 00's gloomy indie-rock spread out across a series of 7" discs. A bugger to play, mind.