By White Denim
Workout Holiday is a collection of re-recorded songs from the first two EPs by White Denim. This ramshackle three-piece from Austin have been causing a bit of a stir of late, and on this evidence it's fairly easy to see what the fuss is about. They specialise in down and dirty salvos of bluesy riffing and rabble-rousing chants, backed by inventive rhythmic playing, with a bit of experimentalism thrown in for good measure. This is best illustrated in tracks such as 'Shake Shake Shake', which combines a simple blues riff, call and response chanting and an extended instrumental breakdown to deadly effect. Despite a seemingly limited formula, the band know how to keep the listener interested - take 'Sitting', in which James Petralli ditches the full throated singing style in favour of a strangely affecting falsetto, which, along with a peculiar ragtime piano backing, is the farthest that the band stray from their norm.
For the most part, however, they steer clear of such quirkiness, and are all the better for it. The band have a reputation as heavy tourers and the seemingly intentional live sound of Workout Holiday is the mark of a band who want to bring listeners at home as close to the experience of a show as possible. The vocals sound like they were recorded in one take, and on many songs the instruments are somewhat out of time, which would be a criticism, but I feel that these imperfections add to the charm of the record.
The biggest criticism is that, despite most songs clocking in at around the three minute mark, they can tend to feel as if they are dragging on. This is particularly noticeable in the instrumental tracks nearer the end of the album. They feel at times as though they are songs which were intended to have a vocal over the top of them, as they aren't really enough on their own to warrant being purely instrumental.
As a lesson in stripped back bluesy garage-rock, this LP takes some beating, and their spiritual forefathers (Jack White et al) could learn something from the enthusiasm and verve with which the band go about making music.