EP Review: White – Cuts That Don’t Bleed

Cuts That Don’t Bleed

Released 4th November 2016

Words: Gary Feeney

white cuts that don't bleedRegular Popped readers will have noticed by now that we’re huge fans of White, so it’d be fair to say we’re rather excited about the long-awaited release of their debut E.P., the wonderfully titled Cuts That Don’t Bleed.

It seems hard to believe that this is indeed the first collection of songs the band have released though, given their strength of their previous singles – songs like Living Fiction and Blush stake a solid claim to “modern classic” status from the first listen, so it says a lot about the standards White have set themselves, as well as their formidable productivity rate, that none of them appear here.

That said though, all of the tracks on the E.P except Private Lives have been released individually over the last few months, which has allowed long-standing fans to hear how the band have grown and developed their sound since they burst on to the scene with Future Pleasures last summer. From the frenetic, high-energy disco-pop that characterised such songs, White have gradually evolved into a slightly more nuanced sound with added layers of musical complexity, all whilst retaining the energy and drive which made them so exciting in the first place.

The first track on Cuts That Don’t Bleed, the aforementioned Private Lives, is a fusion of the two stages (if you will) of White. A staple of their live sets for some time now, it’s a dance-floor filler like the earlier singles, but with added sass and funk and has the band’s 80’s leanings to the fore. Incorporating the kind of art-rock riffs which Glasgow bands have proven so adept at over the years, from the likes of Orange Juice to the more recent Franz Ferdinand, along with with the theatrical tendencies of Bowie and the funky guitar lines of Prince, Private Lives takes a host of influences and blends them into a smooth, seductive pop track which sets a very high bar for the rest of the E.P.

It’s a bar that is comfortably reached by Step Up, which is something of a shock to the senses following the pop-rock-funk-disco blast of the opener. Built around a pulsating electronic beat, which sounds more complex and more captivating the more you listen to it, there’s a distinctly dark and menacing edge to the track: Leo Condie whispers, speaks and snarls his way through his lyrics to spectacular effect, adding further depth to the jarring musical power behind him, climaxing with the barked “step up and kill your friends” refrain. It’s a very different style and notably more aggressive than anything else White have done, and that change in direction is a big part of what makes Step Up such a thrilling track – in the time between its first release and now, I’d be tempted to argue that it might actually be their best song.

Referring to a change of direction is perhaps a slight misnomer though, as it would suggest that White have been even slightly predictable or repetitive to date – every song on Cuts That Don’t Bleed charts a course of its own, perhaps most notably on the third track, Recreational TV. An ominous, brooding affair featuring a myriad of fellow Glaswegians including Baby Strange, the Lapelles and Lucia Fontaine and a backing track sounding like it could have featured on the soundtrack to Scarface, it isn’t as immediately engaging as the band’s other offerings, but then, that seems to be the aim: to challenge the listener and to take them on a musical journey.

Last but not least is I Liked You Better When You Needed Me, which appears with an extended introduction on the E.P under the title of Part 1 which wasn’t on the previous release…and it’s perhaps the only thing that White have done to date that’s questionable. It’s not necessarily BAD, but at the same time it doesn’t add a great deal to proceedings and the E.P wouldn’t be any the worse off for its absence. That said though, it doesn’t detract from the flow of the E.P, and doesn’t take anything away from the overall effect, so we can easily skip over that one slight dip, not least because Part 2 is so good, pulling together elements from the other three “proper” tracks to produce an epic finale. There’s quite reminiscent of Muse in the bombastic guitar riffs and also the theatrical rock edge, which serves to underline the many facets of the band – it’s not a comparison I’d ever have expected to spring to mind when I first heard Blush, for example! Combined with dark, murky synths and a chorus that manages to be haunting and sultry all in one, it’s a superb end to an E.P which is spell-binding from the first bars.

As well as being a landmark for White themselves, Cuts That Don’t Bleed is also something of a defining moment for a Glasgow music scene which has produced an incredible number of great bands and great songs over the course of the year. Despite this only been their first collective release, White are undoubtedly one of the main players in the city’s soundscape to the extent that they are co-headlining city’s 1,300+ capacity ABC venue with Baby Strange in December – it’s an extraordinary feat, and one which alongside this magnificent E.P. serves to prove just how special this band are.

Listen to Cuts That Don’t Bleed here:

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