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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tonight in Music: White Williams

posted by on January 24 at 14:45 PM






Given that White Williams comes up from under the wings of Girl Talk and Dan Deacon, and records for Kid606’s Tigerbeat6 label, you might reasonably expect some toy-electronic seizures or mischievous sample fucking from the man born Joe Williams. But on debut album Smoke, Williams proves to be a subtler brand of joker than his references would suggest. In fact, his one great gag is a kind of cool, detached take on late-’70s electric glam funkósmooth, little laptop reductions of Bowie or Bolan.

But while Smoke is playfully stoned, it’s not entirely a goof. “Headlines” may be full of spinning-newspaper non sequiturs and its chorus echoed by a comically detuned baritone, but it also rides a convincing groove. “In the Club” is heavy on the pastiche, but it also has an undeniable sway and charisma. “New Violence” is a politely pogoing new-wave workout. The title track is an odd funk gem, full of wobbly, staggering bass, silky synth flutes, and evenly exhaled vocals.

There are no obviously sampled hooks here, but Williams’s affected vocals and deftly laid-back arrangements make sneaky references throughout. And two tracks register as more firmly tongue in cheek: the rote, druggy cover of “I Want Candy” and the ring-modulated, sample-and-hold outro “Lice in the Rainbow,” in which Williams finally lets his circuit-bent, inner Dan Deacon out.

Held up to his putative peers, White Williams is practically easy listening. But for anyone unfamiliar with his buddies, Smoke is just unusual pop from an unlikely source, hazy but vaguely familiar. ERIC GRANDY

White Williams plays Thurs Jan 24 at Club Pop at Chop Suey, 9 pm, $8/$10, 18+. With Health, Check Minus, DJ David Wolf.

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