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The Whitest Boy Alive - Rules

The Whitest Boy Alive, Rules

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

FOLLOWING the success of last year’s debut album Dreams, The Whitest Boy Alive – aka Erlend Øye – returns with Rules and flatter to deceive.

While a good listen, Rules also underwhelms slightly. I hadn’t heard Dreams and so was expecting much more from the sometime Kings of Convenience member based on the many glowing notices I’d read about him.

Rules is reportedly more disco than Dreams, which relied on more indie pop for its appeal. Here, Fender Rhodes reside comfortably alongside organs and shifty disco beats. There’s even a touch of house.

Underpinning everything, meanwhile, are Øye’s distinct, unassuming, even gentle vocals. And perhaps therein lies the album’s biggest problem.

With everything so laidback, some of the messages behind the songs get lost in its own state of bliss. Tracks consistently threaten to hit a funky rhythm that a lot never manage to attain.

Intentions, for instance, hints at Stevie Wonder and Air but lacks the punch it needs to really stand out as a highlight, while Courage, the track that immediately follows, falls into the same trap.

Indeed, there are times when songs just become plain repetitive, with Courage a classic case in point that feels like the record has got stuck about halfway through.

It’s a shame, for there’s much to admire elsewhere in Øye’s astute social observations and obvious wit.

But sometimes his own cleverness lets him down, too. The Whitest Boy Alive, for instance, is a clever play on words and perceptions… but not that clever really. While a track like Rollercoaster Ride suggests tempo changes and speed – yet unfolds at a pedestrian pace that’s almost flat come the track’s end.

Hence, the acclaim that greeted Dreams may well have gone dry come the final moments of Rules. As much as I wanted to love it and hail it as an excellent sophomore listen, it never really rallied above being anything other than mildly diverting, and admittedly soothing, background noise.

Download picks: Keep A Secret, Dead End, Island

Track listing:

  1. Keep a Secret
  2. Intentions
  3. Courage
  4. Timebomb
  5. Rollercoaster Ride
  6. High on the Heels
  7. 1517
  8. Gravity
  9. Promise Less or Do More
  10. Dead End
  11. Island