White Lung’s new album this year, Paradise, was more polished and professionally produced than any of their past three albums.
With more successes and critical acclaim, especially for their last album, Deep Fantasy, it made sense for the punk band to shoot for the bigger leagues. The changed video direction might outline it well: they went from clips set straight from their cramped shows to performing in arty, deliberately empty theater houses.
The latter video promoted the new album’s excellent single “Below,” a more mellow and labored song recorded by a band known for speedy, first-take rawness. And live at the Casbah, “Below” slowed the set down after a first few series of swift punches. The mood in the room felt more apt for a shoegaze show, with Kenneth William’s guitar riff burning slowly and all eyes fixed on frontwoman Mish Way. Her arms moved in a locked-in choreography to the music like the video.
Though the band’s new sound is admirable in its quality, I find myself returning to the messy-by-design thrills of Deep Fantasy more often than I put on the more mature Paradise. Experiencing “Below” live felt similarly bittersweet: an on-point performance of a very good song but afraid it may lead to a too contained show.
But Way quickly dismissed any doubts about the band after finishing the song.
“Now that’s done, I don’t have to try anymore,” she said, sipping on her tequila. “Cheers!”
White Lung followed “Below” with “Kiss Me When I Bleed,” another Paradise single. As the title may already suggest, the song was commanding, and Way screamed the titular hook like a direct challenge — a thing that can probably be said about all of Way’s great choruses.
The band’s performance then resembled more of the fury recorded in the “Drown with the Monster” video. The members went song after song like clockwork, with minimal, wordless stops for sips of water and guitar tuning. The revolving-door feel only felt more pronounced since their older songs clock in about two minutes tops.
The set ranged from favorites from Sorry, their second record, to Deep Fantasy highlights to, of course, Paradise. “Bag” from Sorry doubled as a return to an oldie and a measure of how far they’ve come in terms of songwriting in the past four years. That said, the song also showed how some things about White Lung don’t change. The scrawled riffs and melodic, gut-reaching chorus, for one, remains intact to this day.
The first song to Deep Fantasy, “Drown with the Monster” actually closed the set. The stage was lit red like the video, the guitar screeched like a siren, and the band went in without a warning. They gave a quick thank you and exited fast as they entered.