The Whitest Boy Alive ? Rules (Bubbles) 30/03/09

April 9, 2009 by  


Erlend ?ye’s outfit The Whitest Boy Alive is another example of the excellent music coming out of Norway in recent times. ‘Rules’ is their second UK album release and has a much more minimalist feel than previous efforts. Opener ‘Keep A Secret’ is a great introduction to what follows. There is downbeat funk here, like a heavily sedated Stevie Wonder playing lift music. If that sounds a little ambiguous, then that is a feeling that reoccurs throughout.

‘Rollercoaster Ride’ is one of these moments. “It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotion”, cries ?ye, but such a plaintive call is jarring on the back of a melody which sounds constantly on the point of stalling. Immediately after, but at the other end of the spectrum, lies ‘High On The Heels’, a moment that shows exactly what this band can do. The drums are crisp and clean, the keyboards are cheeky, and ?ye’s voice becomes just another instrument.

At times the pared down melodies and light drumming sounds a little too much like jazz, and it wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine TWBA in lounge suits, playing to guests in a hotel reception. This impression is not always helped by the vague lyrics and gentle, unobtrusive vocal style on display.

It is seems obvious that there are some great ideas etched into this album, but you can’t help but wish that there was a little more to get your teeth into. The closest comparison to be made would be to Air’s ‘Moon Safari’, and that is both a compliment and a curse. The Whitest Boy Alive certainly understand how to make intellectual and downbeat music, but is there still the audience for it that there was in 1998?

By Liam Clune