What’s fun anymore? Where are the screeching amps, fists-in-the-air chorus bellows or power pop hooks—immovable objects once entrenched into your brain? Rock music hit all these tropes on the airwaves at the turn of the century, and it needs that joy again. Kentucky’s White Reaper seek to replenish it while living up to their name: a bright facade for a rip roaring, flame-fueled brand of garage rock.
The band’s fourth effort Asking For A Ride sees them going for broke, leaving no noise overstaying its welcome in these 10 riff-packed songs. The eponymous opener revs up before unleashing catchiness in droves. Funneled through fuzz pedals and a hair metal neck-tapping solo, it’s akin to Rivers Cuomo’s Van Halen worship, a jukebox rock record played with Flying Vs.
“Bozo” is another punk ‘n’ roll throwback, making a claim to soundtrack a revitalized Crazy Taxi franchise someday. “Fog Machine” is the most retro of all, its monumental hooks delivered with throaty brilliance from Tony Esposito, which gets the backups involved for a live show centerpiece. But the versatility shows whenever White Reaper dip into other styles that strike their fancy. Ryan Hater’s keyboards add a jangly synth-pop sound to “Getting into Trouble with the Boss” which, despite a midtempo number, gravitates toward a face-ripping solo as if the band needs to fulfill a quota. Not that it sounds out of place, nor does the left-field “Funny Farm.” Deviating from the love-lorn heartbreak, Esposito reminds us, “I am a cowboy” and “I am from the future,” on a roadhog motor trip through hell’s desert, featuring demonic hushed screams and Southern twang.
“Pink Space” is, by contrast, a morose pop rock tune, a mood translated onto “Heaven Or Not”’s “color made in monochrome,” which ironically mimics neon nostalgia with echoed electronic drums and strobe lighting. Meanwhile high-school romanticism and a doo-wop influence rears its head on “Crawlspace.” In the same way that Tom DeLonge’s voice on blink-182’s 2003 self-titled album evolved from teenage charm to something more melodic and reflective, Esposito exercises control over every catchy syllable, with unexpected vocal cadences carrying a saddening quality over shimmering instrumentals.
White Reaper save some familiar melodies for the closer—an Americana lament to be screamed out at the top of your lungs. It works as a pastiche of all the vocal tricks that get us amped from garage rock and punk’s heyday and encapsulates Asking For A Ride’s spirit. It sticks to tried and tested pop rock styles, but adds a control and confidence of its own to save it from ever feeling too formulaic. It’s refreshing to hear a clamor of guitars, drums, pianos and voices. The journey to reclaim rock as an outlet for ballistic fun may very well start here.