White Reaper – The World’s Best American Band
The title of White Reaper’s sophomore full-length, The World’s Best American Band is likely to provoke one or the other of the following kneejerk reactions: 1.) these guys are cocky as hell, or B.) these guys are cocky as hell and that’s why they’re cool. But on second thought, it’s a lot more complicated.
After all, it is 2017, at least two decades beyond the point where being in a band is considered to be the greatest, coolest thing one can do. Sure, there are scads of great, great bands – right here and right now. But is the “greatness” of 2017 anywhere near as great as the greatness of 1987, or 1977, or 1967? I think not. And I kind of doubt that the reality of diminished greatness in the present is lost on the members of White Reaper, either.
The title’s combination of audacity, earnestness and irony pretty much sums up the White Reaper thing. Sure, these guys have got the balls to claim they’re the World’s Best American Band, goddammitt. And sure, these guys are striving to be the best, really. And sure, they’re well aware that these days, playing in a band is a cliché, a double (or triple, or quadruple) bind, a source of ridicule, a terminal affliction.
But the members of White Reaper probably don’t give that much of a fuck about the diminished capacity of “greatness” in the present, either. They’re too busy having fun and, like, ruling, dude. Seriously.
The new album succeeds where its predecessor, White Reaper Does it Again only kinda/sorta halfway succeeded – on the songs that were good, that is. The World’s Best American Band is pared down and tightened up to maximize efficiency. This is catchy, crunchy stuff that draws in the listener immediately and never lets up until less than 32 minutes later when the ten tracks are done. The album’s ultra-caffeinated, high glucose confection is served in the perfect portion sizes. It’s a quick, cheap, intense high with only a minimal hangover. White Reaper deals in the riff/hooks/melody combo that served predecessors like The Cars and Cheap Trick so well. This is virtually the same formula Atlanta’s Biters (another one of America’s greatest, really) use – minus the cock-rock trappings, that is.
This is punky, poppy music that is not “pop punk” per se. The second track, “Judy French,” is the album’s home run, a memorable song with an imminently catchy chorus and a guitar riff that would do the Descendents’ Stephen Edgerton proud. “The Stack,” is another winner that features an even stronger chorus. All of the songs, really, are various degrees of, uh, “great.”
But the album does have a couple or three flaws. The vocals are overly tweaked – not in an autotuner kinda way, but in a faux megaphone/overdrive sound that evolves from cool to grating with about 10 minutes’ listening. Likewise, the guitars are overly compressed into a distorted sound that evolves from cool to grating with about 10 minutes’ listening. And, lastly, the ephemeral nature of the whole deal is kind of a blessing and a curse: The neon-toned, high sheen, “seconds of pleasure” thing that makes the album (and the band) so instantly likeable begins to erode after, uh, just a little bit less than 32 minutes.
The World’s Best American Band probably really is about as great as rock ’n’ roll junk food gets these days. I really, really like it – really. And it’s, like, totally unfair to hold the band accountable for the diminished greatness of the present day. Seconds of pleasure is about the best any of us can hope for, and White Reaper deliver just that – with guitar solos, even. Yeah, this is cool.
The World’s Best American Band