Never judge a book by its cover; however, if The Whitest Boy Alive’s second Lp ‘Rules’ is anything to go by, records can be safely left to one’s own assumptions. Elementarily rendered in black and white, an illustrated queue of impassive-looking humans take the shape of the letter R leading into an open door entitled ‘Rules’. For those seeking meaning and metaphors from their music, many a thought will be provoked by the connotations that could be construed from the artistic symbolism that masquerades the music itself.
Based in Berlin, The Whitest Boy Alive formed in 2003 as an electronic dance music project for Erlend Oye (Kings of Convenience). Obviously this is quite the artistic sabbatical and antipode from his ever endearing folk heritage, however, the group soon metamorphosed into a developed band with no programming by the time of their debut release of ‘Dreams’ in 2007.
Recorded in a bespoke studio in Punta Burros, Mexico, ‘Rules’ has a habit of falling into a middle-of-the-road subgenre due to its antithetical influences. Instead of it dominating any subversive territory, it has a tendency to draw the listener into a hypnotic purgatory of assonant, dulcet tones.
And that’s not to say that it is a bad album by bad musicians – you are just left feeling indifferent towards its cause. For a group that started out as an electronic dance act, ‘Rules’ is somewhat a sedated listen, having a tendency to lean somewhat to the softer side of inoffensive indie-dance music, and a field firmly held by the likes of Sam Sparro.
The electronic influence is felt, but it’s like it has been forced in carelessly to a rather jazzy, white boy funk structure, leaving many a track monotonous and assonant. Their is a certain Kraftwerk-meticulousness about ‘Rules’ that could only be achieved with the precision and austerity of their German habitation, but you can’t help but feel upon every track that something is missing and a little apathetic towards what it is trying to achieve.
Despite ‘Rules’ ringing with a well-meaning cautiousness, the likes of ‘Dead End’ and ‘1517’ burst with exceptional craftsmanship and life; however, the overall body of work is somewhat myopic and painfully restrained as its title and art work may entice you into thinking. The result is a conservatively mellow – albeit mellifluous at times – sounding Hot Chip playing to a white-collared tea party.