Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

For its debut, White Reaper rejects refinements and lets it rip

Illustration for article titled For its debut, White Reaper rejects refinements and lets it rip

The recent blossom of garage-punk revival bands (with its bract nestled comfortably in California) has been a good thing, but each act that joins the scene seems compelled to combine the genre with something else: Ty Segall folding in Syd Barrett’s spacey experiments, King Tuff adding a thick glam sheen, Hunx And His Punx reimagining it as a form of Brill Building pop, etc. Kentucky newcomers White Reaper have no interest in any such highbrow hybrids; these guys like their punk the way its ’70s originators did—loud, snotty, and absolutely unrestrained. Nailing both the who-gives-a-shit attitude and execution of the source material, the band’s frenzied debut White Reaper Does It Again takes the prize for purity.

After a ruthless, pounding, first-round-knockout of an EP last year, White Reaper takes a pass on the opportunity to finesse and expand its sound in the first full-length. White Reaper Does It Again is a tighter effort, more sharply crafted but certainly not refined: From one flash-in-the-pan track to the next, the band jackhammers apart hooks and urgently steers guitars across the rubble. It’s a jarring excursion that keeps the listener perfectly perched on the tipping point of exhilaration and recklessness.

Starting off this helter-skelter joyride is “Make Me Wanna Die,” a fuzzed-out whirlwind of distortion, pulsing guitars, and surging percussion, like Phil Spector put the Sex Pistols in an echo chamber and added a noodling amateur keyboardist. It’s a visceral, messy thrill that doesn’t let up into the next cut, “I Don’t Think She Cares” a dizzying two-minute rollick given an incessantly pounding pace by vocalist Tony Esposito’s stabbing snarl. The album never downshifts from that daredevil speed; even the few tracks that exceed the three-minute mark (including the thrashing, somewhat-sang pop banger “Sheila”) pass by in a disorienting blur.

With this relentless tempo, White Reaper proudly puts its other preferences front-and-center: noise over nuance, aggression over art, intensity over imagination. These are not, of course, mentalities exclusive to any modern musician. To the extent that they provide a pioneering punk blueprint, however, White Reaper Does It Again follows the formula a lot more closely than most.