Back in May, White Lung frontwoman Mish Way fired a tweet at all the lazy rock writers out there: “Please stop calling my band ‘riot grrrl.’ It’s not 1992. I don’t come from Olympia. It’s 2014. I got my own thing. Thank you.” It’s a haphazard label, considering riot grrrl was more of a feminist cultural movement than a defined genre, not to mention White Lung sounds nothing like the old Olympia scene (which produced bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Sleater-Kinney). But most troubling is that we’re still defining rock bands based on the gender of their leader, that we’re still in this mode of assuming, “Oh, she’s a chick in an aggro band. She must be a riot grrrl.”
White Lung actively detach themselves from those perceptions on their third LP, Deep Fantasy, as Way violently establishes her own identity as a vocalist. It’s a snarling record — 10 songs clocking in at 22 minutes — and takes no breathers, combining the onslaught of vintage D-beat hardcore with Way’s acute sense of melody. Guitarist Kenneth William brings his metal-shredder technicality, interweaving riffs and crescendos that feed one another and give the album a sense of flow, starting with opener “Drown with the Monster”. It’s White Lung at their most menacing; Way howls with detached apathy (a style she’s gradually perfected) and her words are direct, yet carry metaphorical weight. “Drug the living crowd/ You don’t make a sound,” goes the refrain of highlight “Face Down”. She keeps her motives vague, but her adrenaline is unadulterated and pours out of the speakers like boiling blood.
Deep Fantasy favors unrelenting speed over songwriting variation, and the record’s B side flies by in a blur before reaching climactic closer “In Your Home”. But the brevity is effective. White Lung swoop in, make their point, hammer it home, and then retreat. There’s not a second wasted on indulgent songwriting flourishes or guitar noodling from the economical William. It’s rare that a record holds your attention from start to finish, but because Deep Fantasy is undiluted, its finest qualities are glowingly apparent. And the star here is Mish Way. Fact: She’s a woman fronting an aggro band. Truth: She’s one of the best rock vocalists around, of any gender.
Essential Tracks: “Drown with the Monster”, “Face Down”