Jayson Greene’s review of “WWI” by White Whale

White Whale

Band: White Whale

Album: WWI

Critic: Jayson Greene

Publication: Stylus, 2006

Writing Disorders: Jargon Palsy, Idea Fever, Scorn Disease

Longest Sentence: 70 words

Critic Stereotype Affirmed: You mention both Pavement and Radiohead in your review

Most Emo Phrase: “As long as the culture remains as painfully insular, this shit will eventually wilt and die, or cartwheel off into the Narnia of solipsism.”

Best WTF moment: “an imitation of Morrissey’s fitfully perturbed younger cousin.”




Jayson, you started off on a pretty harsh note. I’m not entirely convinced, but I’m going to venture a guess that you didn’t really like this album:


“They have formed to remind you of everything in indie rock circa 2006 that you are trying to forget.”


Ouch! That’s a tall claim. Wait, what exactly am I personally trying to forget about 2006 indie rock? How do you have intimate knowledge of what I, a random reader, thinks of independent rock music in a particular year? Have you been stalking me? HAVE YOU?


Huh? Ohhhhhhh…you meant everything YOU wanted to forget. I’m sorry man — I just didn’t understand your writing because it’s poorly written.


Next, your assessment of the band:


“they make self-important, self-consciously literate guitar rock past its sell-by date via a simple recipe: mix together some late-period Death Cab for Cutie, some OK Computer-era Radiohead, and add in a few Doves and some Decemberists.”


I’m pretty sure that “late-period” work from a band that’s still together is called “recent” work. What you wrote is like saying “late-period events this October.” And answer me this. How is it simple to mix four completely different bands together? Obviously you’ve never written music.


“In their defense, White Whale does have a healthy appreciation for sonic grandeur and an ear for wrapping tart chord progressions in evocative sounds-wintry synth washes, backing horns, toy-box drum programming.”


So…you’re defending the band you just called “facelessly competent” from the person who just called them “facelessly competent?” And to make it more confusing, you went on to write this about the lead singer:


“He even shows a knack for convoluted narratives”


Really? This is coming from a guy who JUST wrote a 70-word sentence right before this one:


“Some moments are egregiously derivative: the chorus to “What’s an Ocean For?” is either a direct lift from the Doves’s first album or Coldplay’s second, and “Forgive the Forgiven” steals the instantly recognizable drum sound from Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight.”


I may be alone here, but I don’t think a rock band sits down and says, “For our next album, we should rip off either Coldplay or Phil Collins by directly lifting one of their tracks from their first and second album, respectively.” But even if they don’t, I’m still fairly confident you wouldn’t rip Butch Vig for playing the “Train in Vain” drumline for the Garbage hit “Stupid Girl” or that you’d cry foul that Peter Bjorn and John “stole” Muse’s drumming from “Starlight” when the two bands were recording their albums at the same time. Sometimes music replicates itself, Jayson. And that’s not always a bad thing. Nor is it always intended. Anytime you want to make something totally original, go right ahead, but be sure to put it on Myspace so we can listen and critique it.


Finally — [drum roll] — there’s your baffling conclusion:


“White Whale themselves have done nothing wrong, and WWI is a decent album. But does indie rock have to sound like this?”


In the world of letter grades, “decent” means C. And if the band did nothing wrong, then wouldn’t it get an A+ instead of a D+?