When I was a kid back in the ’80s and ’90s, my family owned one of those handheld cassette recorders with the handles. My sister and I, or sometimes friends, would record everything around us. We’d create little radio programs and skits and songs and such. It was silly and fun, full of inside jokes, the kind of thing young people did in in the safe space of close kinship. A level of comfortable where you didn’t care about what anyone thought or said, just fun for fun’s sake.
Chicago siblings White Mystery always remind me of times like that, simpler times before the internet was ubiquitous when you could make something for an audience of two and that was enough. I’ve always found their songs to be filled to the brim with reckless energy, sonic adventures that drag you flailing into a fuzz-soaked fantasy world of the White’s creation. Proclamations of fierce individuality and unflagging loyalty swirl together with apocalyptic imagery and wild stories. All the while, it’s delivered tongue in cheek, never allowing the listener to take it too seriously. It’s always a hell of a ride.
“Outta Control”, the latest of their annual releases, is the same ride but slowed down. Despite what the name might imply, the album starts with the controlled bounce of “Best Friend”, an ode to rescued pets and unconditional love that almost reminded me of an old White Stripes song. Throughout the whole first side, you get clean-guitar in the verses and melodic, non-shouted vocals from Alex. Francis’ percussion is more subdued. It’s as if, after the breakneck pace of the last few records (and I’m sure the last few years of their non-stop tour) the White’s are taking a break to explore a more sensitive side. If you’re a fan of their louder stuff the effect is a little unsettling but ultimately rewarding, like a quiet moment of fresh air after a brutal battle.
“I’m a sick, sick fuck” Francis drawls on “Finger” and as the A-side draws to a close so does the calm. It’s probably my favorite track, strange and a little unhinged and full of humor. The rest of the records strays into more familiar WM territory: The pop-tinged self-consciousness of a woman with no brain in “Cerebellum”; the hilarious mariachi-ish legend of the bigger than life “Pacci”; Chicago accented slam poetry all over “Sweet Relief”. If White Mystery had a kid’s show, the theme song would be “White Clowns”. And the album closer, “Thrash Time”, speaks for itself.
Whether it’s their shared childhood experiences or just touring together non-stop for the last eight or so years, White Mystery always present a united front. As listeners and fans we’re drawn into a sense of familiarity, of being open to anything and not judging. As always, on “Outta Control” Alex and Francis share their stories with us without shame, completely comfortable. Unafraid and welcoming us to join in the fun, to get in on the inside jokes. Like two kids with an old tape recorder. Or as they put it “White Mystery’s here and so are you, sing sing sing til your face turns blue, having a good time and so are you!” And I am!
Get the album (out in all formats) and have a good time at whitemysteryband.com.