I used to think White Denim sucked but their new album has changed that


I have been a White Denim questioner (not quite detractor) for several years now. I had never heard of them before moving to Austin in August 2010, and in doing my homework on the local music scene, I was fairly underwhelmed with their output. I liked some of the raw garage punk of their 2009 album, Fits, most notably the single “I Start to Run.” Their lauded 2011 album, D, however, was – to me – such a scattered, unfocused affair that I very intentionally left them off of this site’s 2011 year-end best-of lists. They have always seemed like a fine band, but when I looked at the innumerable amount of “fine bands” in Austin, I couldn’t figure out why this one had won over a national audience’s attention in lieu of the other folks in town.

I won’t say that has all changed with Corsicana Lemonade, the group’s new album, recently released, but they have finally made a record that I think fulfills the promise heaped upon them by national media outlets so long ago. Lemonade finds them channeling their restless spirit through some retro rock vibes. There’s a lot of 70s rock influence scattered throughout this album, but White Denim has never been content to simply explore one sound. Whereas on D, for example, this resulted in a bunch of songs that could at times sound like they came from entirely different bands, and provided little cohesion for a full record, on Corsicana Lemonade, this means a fresh take on a classic sound.

Lead single “Pretty Green” is maybe one of the most straightforward tracks on the record. It’s a mid-tempo jam with an epic guitar solo section for the last minute, which could come across as tired if it weren’t just a really good song. It’s got a great groove that unexpectedly meshes with a smooth chorus. The parts of the song fit well together and are different enough to remain engaging. I think the best song is the Gary Clark Jr. soundalike “Come Back,” with its endlessly winding guitar riff in the chorus and its relentless boogie. It’s a track with a rich arrangement and a cool bridge that has kept me coming back for more…no pun intended.

It also kicks off the stretch of the album that features the most interesting songs. “Distant Relative Suite” has a wonderful verse melody, and more of the same intricate guitar work that runs across Lemonade. “Let it Feel Good (My Eagles)” is an acoustic swamp stomp in which singer James Petralli fights back laughter, and his joy is contagious. The record ends on “A Place to Start,” which cops the 70’s soft rock sound (it reminds me of “Crystal Blue Persuasion” from Tommy James & the Shondells…technically from 1969). It sounds the most different from the rest of the record, but is a pretty closer.

White Denim, as a group of musicians, is driven to explore musically. They are clearly great musicians and they have a restlessness that is going to continue leading them to really interesting places. On Corsicana Lemonade, they have focused that energy enough to deliver a set of compelling rock songs that never settle in one place. And I may just have to admit that they are more than just another fine Austin rock band.

– Carter Delloro