White Rabbits | Fort Nightly (Say Hey)

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cd_whiterabbitsThe crafting of the group's style seems more at the front of their minds than the crafting of memorable songs.

 

 

 

 

There's an old superstition in Great Britain that "white rabbits" should be the first thing uttered in a given month for that to be a lucky month. In English author Lewis Carroll's book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice follows the White Rabbit down a hole into Wonderland. I don't know what either of these references has to do with the Columbia, Mo.-gathered band White Rabbits, but whatever meaning is taken has to be a positive one, right?

Right. With that being said, there are many positives to take from the debut album from White Rabbits, an afro-beat/calypso/indie rock odyssey known cryptically as Fort Nightly. The six-piece ensemble, centering on the shared vocals of Gregory Roberts (guitar) and Stephen Patterson (piano), evokes Captain Beefheart playing honky-tonk piano with modern production. A mixture of pop melodies (albeit ones with an eerie twist), guttural vocals, and raucous rhythms, White Rabbits are effective in distinguishing themselves from most of their peers, which is half the battle.

The other half of the battle is good songwriting, and Fort Nightly is hit or miss. Beginning with the frantic, locomotive piano-riff of "Kid on My Shoulders," White Rabbits pull you into their land of wonders quickly, grating dirty guitars on loose percussion, with bold vocals begging, "Boy, where are you hiding?!" Following is the catchiest song on Fort Nightly, the guitar-driven, relentlessly stomping tune, "The Plot," which finds a howling "whoa" chasing the chorally-sung lines, "He's not impressed." Skip a track and we get to "Navy Wives" and "While We Go Dancing," the best consecutive tracks on the album, which fades from here on out. The former may cause weird kids to dance, it being tropical enough, but sufficiently dark. While they dance, the indie kids will follow with the latter track, which is something like The Cure meeting Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, albeit with that honky-tonk piano finding its way back in. "I Used to Complain Now I Don't" sounds like a mixture of the two preceding tracks, and thus is infectious in following, yet fails to provide a new hook.

The failings of the rest of Fort Nightly, save for some memorable moments at the hands of White Rabbits' unique sound, are due to the fact that the crafting of the group's style seems more at the front of their minds than the crafting of memorable songs. I think the first task is the more difficult of the two, and combine that with the few aforementioned excellent tracks on Fort Nightly, and you get a very promising new band. The work ethic is there, the sound is there, and it should be very interesting when White Rabbits pull it all together. For now, they're definitely worth a listen. C+ | Dave Jasmon

RIYL: Man Man, The Specials, Cold War Kids

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