Dry Land Is Not A Myth – the debut long-player from Los Angeles-based five-piece White Arrows – begins with the machine gun-style firing of mechanised drums that recalls the beginning of Radiohead’s 15 Step. The aggression of that intro proves to be a red herring, as Dry Land… is as accessible and immediate as albums get in 2012: one which seems to have been designed by a marketing committee to appeal to as broad a range of listeners as possible.
White Arrows arrive with a back-story that proves similarly misleading. Frontman Mickey Church’s father was a student of African percussion; Mickey himself studied shamanistic ritual at university, while Church was legally blind until age eleven, before which his memories are dominated by “swathes of fuzzy colour”, an experience which is evidenced in what he describes as the “psychotropic” nature of his band’s music.
All of which suggests that – to be blunt – Dry Land… will be a load of joss stick-wielding twaddle. Fortunately, the reality is better than that, for this is, first and foremost, a pop album – one whose primary aim is to dispatch a battalion of earworms into the listener’s head.
Listening to White Arrows’ music is rather like hearing the band flicking through a rolodex of the most buzzed-about indie acts of the last decade. There’s the hyper-caffeinated Afro-Pop of Contra-era Vampire Weekend on Get Gone and Sail On; the ‘nu-gaze’ of The Big Pink and M83 on Little Birds, I Can Go’s high-speed catchiness is redolent of Phoenix; elsewhere, there are hints of Foster The People (Settle Down) and Cut Copy (Coming Or Going). A more unexpected influence – Mika – appears on Getting Lost, the album’s only major misstep.
Unfortunately, the net effect of these kaleidoscopic influences is blandness. Most of the songs on Dry Land… are tuneful and memorable, yet none of them emotionally or physically involves the listener, and there’s little to take away apart from an appreciation of the album’s attractive sheen. It’s a state of affairs that’s not helped by the lyrics – which are almost entirely forgettable -and Church’s voice, which is pinched-sounding and lacking in individuality.
Still, at 34 minutes, Dry Land… doesn’t hang around long enough to cause any serious offence. This is a perfectly OK record: no more, no less.