Published Aug 21, 2018A band are here to perform. We, the audience, are here to listen.
But White Denim won't let us off the hook that easily. On the jittery and undeniable Performance, the Austin, TX-based band hold a mirror back at us sitting slouched in the auditorium rows. These nine tracks speed past with exhilarating energy, confronting the shifting selves we perform in the routine of everyday life.
Performance is a flipbook of images, loosely tethered around familiar scenes, though saturated to a point of near unrecognizability. On "Fine Slime," White Denim deliver a shuddering groove, describing a standard morning that quickly shifts to the surreal. "You catch the bus but stay curious? … / Red meat police and you watch the street bend, it whets your appetite," a balancing act between fiction and reality that reveals the razor edge separating these poles. Such acid-soaked social remarks on performed identity succeed thanks to White Denim's good humour and keen ability to not take themselves too seriously. This is all just a performance, after all.
Album closer "Good News" offers one of the quietest moments on the record and a glimmer of genuine feeling, removed from synthetic selfhood. "Wanna tell you how much I need you, do you still need me? / I keep my bad news to myself today." In the simplicity of its emotion, the moment is disarmingly moving, revealing something more elemental in ourselves that seems untouched by artifice or pretence.
This record is a far cry from a mocking treatise on performativity; it's strongly felt, unceasingly surprising and just a whole lot of fun. White Denim slip casually and confidently between tones and genres: "Sky Beaming" gives a skewed jazz energy, while "Magazin" amps up a big, brassy rock sound to stirring effect. When all the world's a stage, Performance makes a pretty great soundtrack for the show. (City Slang)