White Denim’s “D” And How Don Van Vliet’s Band Fared In Probate

Thirty seconds into “It’s Him” on White Denim’s new album, D, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Devendra Banhart inherited The Magic Band from Captain Beefheart. “To Byron Coley, Mr. Van Vliet left his ashtray heart. And to Mr. Banhart, he left his cassette player, his top hat, and his band.”

“Southern Prog” is how some have termed the expansion of White Denim from a trio to a double-axe murdering foursome, but this isn’t progrock.  This is sweet pop music rehearsed in Tex Watson’s garage, after an afternoon sipping jimson weed tea. Yes, the reference to The Minutemen is apt, but less so on D than anything that came before it. The addition of the perfectly named Austin Jenkins on second guitar doesn’t make it “Southern,” though having an additional guitarist adds a formalism to the rehearsed-within-an-inch-of-its-life machinery.  And when we say pop music, not Southern Prog, we mean that White Denim seem slightly closer in spirit to neighbor Jack White’s buddy Brendan Benson than to Duane and Dicky jamming with the Flaming Lips.  Moreover, progrock as a reference point only counts if a band like Citay can be thrown into this particular patch of prickly pear.

We did not expect ever to want to play a White Denim album for company, for they’ve previously been headphone stalwarts, guaranteed to clear a room waiting for the PTA meeting to start.  Yet D is such a tour de force we could see it entertaining a Mensa convention while anyone who ever loved Clear Spot could tap her feet and nod.  This is music for a late-night drive to the border, music to be played after that all-nighter as the sun rises over the Salton Sea.  More immediately, this is music to play as our Summer ’11 anthem.

One Response to “White Denim’s “D” And How Don Van Vliet’s Band Fared In Probate”

  1. […] genres that when mixed in the Austinite’s mixmaster came out as an elixir of joy.  When we wrote about D earlier this year, we described them as one of those Ben & Jerry’s mashups […]

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