White Arrows – Dry Land Is Not A Myth

Overall, ‘Dry Land Is Not A Myth’ is a mixed bag.

Label: Votiv

Rating: 6

Singer / guitarist Mickey Church of White Arrows was born blind, but after years of eye exercises and sticking to treatment, he gained the ability of sight. They are a Californian indie band who, shockingly, aren’t simply a surf pop band. But perhaps Church’s receipt of the gift of sight, something we take for granted, led to his band’s sunny, joyful sound?

The press release for their debut album ‘Dry Land Is Not A Myth’ says to “call it psychotropical pop, something both busy and breezy.” This description is particularly apt, as there is a definite pop aspect to their sound, combining energetic rhythmic beats with a hooky, tropical sensibility that will remind you a bit of Friendly Fires and Cut Copy. However, there’s also echo effects put on the vocals and percussion, plus reverb-heavy guitars introduced into the mix. The resulting combination is intriguing to say the least, especially live, as seen at their Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar appearance on the first night of the Great Escape this year. Performing to a mostly inebriated group of revelers at the late time of 1 AM, White Arrows proved that yes, they are tropical, but they’re also incredibly trippy.

The band’s sound works best when everything is done in moderation, with elements playing complementarily off each other. ‘Coming Or Going’ features Church’s R&B inflected vocals and synths used to great effect, bouncing with the best of them with an infectious dance pop melody sure to get toes tapping. ‘Get Gone’, with handclaps and Church’s boyish singing voice, is another earworm with a more serious premise lyrically: Church is singing about how his mum has kicked him out of the house (“Mama said I got no home / ‘Get gone’”). For those who prefer guitar-driven melody, ‘I Can Go’ is the one for you, turning into a stomping singalong at the chorus. You can kind of imagine Gary Brooker of Procol Harum fame banging on the keys on a song like this. You can expect ‘Settle Down’, the final song on the 10-song album, to raise hands in the air this festival season.

Conversely, sometimes what White Arrows gives us is just too much. ‘Golden’, while founded on the album’s premise of sunny optimism, has far too busy instrumentation, with piano and bells fighting for centre stage; they are at war in the background as Church sings along to the lilting lead melody. It’s as if the band knew this to be the case, as in the third minute of the song, the instruments back off and the song comes off as more mellow. ‘Little Birds’ incorporates lots of little touches that taken one or two at a time would work well, but as various effects and vibrations are employed, the overall effect is tired, not one that’s vibrant. Oddly, ‘Sail On’, the song that feeds directly in from ‘Little Birds’, sounds like nearly the same song. One of the longer and more psychedelic while less tropical pop songs on the album, ‘Getting Lost’, is grating with all the weird miscellaneous vocalizing and Church’s falsetto; some falsettos are just not advised. At all.

Overall, ‘Dry Land Is Not A Myth’ is a mixed bag. Church’s high-pitched voice could prove to be a bit marmite, as could the songs on here without much focus. Clocking in a couple minutes over a half-hour though, it’s short enough to deserve at least one spin this summer.