For a band who, on paper, are a stripped-down punk rock quartet (with a revolving bassist), Vancouver’s White Lung are a persistently unique proposition. Their singular take on punk exists well outside of the genre’s different scenes. They’re never going to be featured in a Hate5six video; there’s few moments across any of their five albums to incite slam dancing and mic grabs. This is punk rock in the most distilled sense; pure linearity and energy.
Instead of reinforcing its walls, White Lung are far more interested in deconstructing the genre’s often rigid boundaries. This is achieved via the similarly-striking combination of Mish Barber-Way’s charismatic vocals and virtuoso guitarist Kenneth Williams’ head-spinningly creative riffs. It’s also worth noting that there’s a distinctly feminine edge to their approach. Whereas punk and hardcore is often mechanistic and aggressive, White Lung jettison hostility in favor of looser arrangements, as well as more willingly complex emotions.
This willingness to harness potent emotions is what has given White Lung, particularly on their brilliant previous full-length Paradise, their edge. On Premonition, every track features some guitar line or vocal melody that taps into an emotional sweet spot. There’s a real melancholic euphoria to the driving rhythms of “Bird” and the abrupt guitar interludes on “Tomorrow”’s pre-choruses that touch on something, often just briefly, transcendent. Punk rock has rarely ever looked so resplendent or felt so heart-stopping.
While there’s fewer of such moments here than on the relentlessly-great Paradise, White Lung do succeed in flexing their songwriting prowess across Premonition. Few tracks deviate away from rapid fire punk brevity, however several choice cuts elegantly break up the demolition. “One Day” slows things down and opens up some space, while album highlight “Under Glass” throws the doors wide open and obliterates them in the process. A gleaming, glistening marvel that ascends to a gorgeous crescendo; Barber-Way’s vocals have never sounded more soulful.
Sadly, this is set to be White Lung’s final album. Here’s hoping its members continue to produce music—I’d particularly love to hear more from Williams and his wholly unique approach to punk guitar. As punk’s formal boundaries gradually dissolve following the introduction of perspectives beyond that of the traditional angry white male, it’s looking more and more likely that in ten, twenty years time we’ll look back at White Lung as underrated pioneers in the quest to fracture the genre’s aesthetic limitations.