White Lung clean up real nice. It’s not usually the Vancouver punk outfit’s concern—they’re often at their best when raging at full speed and max power, plowing through everything in their path with laser focus and the kind of white-hot energy that could burn holes clean through a human torso. Or, at the very least, leave a pretty nasty bruise. So when they actually refocus that kind of jaw-dropping—and, frankly, frightening—talent on writing something that halfway resembles a ballad, it’s a hell of a thing to hear what they come up with. “Below,” the third track to be released from White Lung’s fourth album, Paradise, still pulses and clobbers with the best of the group’s two-minute punk gnashers. But something’s definitely different here. It’s conventionally pretty, for one, incorporating both clean-tone guitars and hooks that should be on regular rotation during the drive-time rush on the Home of the Rock™.
Described by vocalist Mish Barber-Way as their “Stevie-Nicks-meets-Celine-Dion ballad,” “Below” has a power and a transcendence to it that reaches beyond the pit. A meditation on beauty and glamor and their inevitable fade, it celebrates these things while acknowledging that they don’t last. “You know this means nothing if you go die alone,” sings Barber-Way in the song’s highest peak, a moment worth hitting replay for even though it happens only once during the song. It’s a structurally meta moment, in that a song about beauty’s transience features a moment so powerful that it, naturally, is never repeated. That’s clever songwriting. It’s also indisputably the catchiest song the band’s written to date, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear mention of “Below” being White Lung’s “Maps.” At the very least, it’s a breathtaking moment from a band that so very rarely allows you to catch your breath.[from Paradise, out May 6; Domino]
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.