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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.


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