White Lung – Mercury Lounge – 6/26/14


Better Than: Many of the riot grrrls who inspired them.

“Thanks for coming to our matinee,” White Lung singer Mish Way said in a voice dripping with sarcasm, as if that were another self-aware punk-rock trope the band were adding to its arsenal. (Judging by the packed room, no one seemed to mind the hey-we-can-get-dinner-after-the-show 8 p.m. set time, anyway.) But as much as this Vancouver-spawned outfit plays by the (loud fast) rules, they’re more unusual than they seem at first blush.

White Lung’s skill as musicians is rarely — OK, never — the first thing you read in articles about them (that would be spokes-frontwoman/feminist-fatale Mish Way, but more on her in a minute). But they’re brutally tight, with the rhythm section laying down a bruising foundation for the hard-riffing, lockstep-structured, two-and-a-half-minutes-and-out songs. And what makes them different musically is a melodic element that few bands of this ilk possess: Guitarist Kenneth William piles on the volume but also the effects — primarily digital delay — which give his riffs a chiming, harmonic quality that prevents the band’s repetitive songwriting style (hey, it’s punk rock) from becoming boring. Likewise, Hether Fortune’s motorcycle-rumble bass and powerful backing vocals — “harmonies” isn’t really the word — bring a melodic heft that helps the choruses jump out. The Mercury’s forehead-level PA played right into the group’s hands, delivering a loud-but-clean midrange and chest-rattling bass.

But of course the focal point and frontal lobe is Way, whose harrowing, lay-it-all-out-there lyrics — “His Southern hand drags me down to the white bowl/ They got my name cut in the tiles, wet and cold”; she’s a mean writer — are, sadly, rendered completely unintelligible by the roar of the band and her sharp, yelling style, which is basically Courtney Love minus the whine. Like the band itself, she’s a commanding and repetitive performer, with manic, emphatic hand gestures and headbanging that leave a GIF-like visual impression: a violent blur of bleached-blonde hair, black dress and a slash of red lipstick. And even if you can’t understand a word she’s shout-singing, it’s like watching a passionate speech in a language you don’t know: The point comes across even if the particulars don’t.

The band opened with “Drown With the Monster” and tore through a set drawn from their last two albums — 2012’s sophomore, put-them-on-the-map LP Sorry and their just-released Domino debut, Deep Fantasy — and were done in 40ish minutes, no slow songs, no encore, boom, out. Like most of their songs, they said what they had to say and left it at that.

: “At least that girl who just barged past you is the singer.”

Random Notebook Dump: “This band deserves a better moshpit.”

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