The strength of Mish Barber-Way’s voice has been the catalyst to White Lung’s stylistic growth. Her howls made for prime Punk anthems on their 2010 release, It’s The Evil and then contorted that essence into creating some incredibly catchy and effective melodies on Deep Fantasy in 2014. They’ve been able to keep their dynamic energy throughout this progression with great aplomb. Deep Fantasy stayed true to the heaviness of their Punk roots as they branched out to a more sound structure in songwriting.
On Paradise, White Lung proves that they aren’t done expanding sonically, releasing their most eclectic effort that still fits right in at some underground club that uses a specific hair dye color as its password. ‘Below’ blends their harsh drums and Way’s commanding pipes with breezy guitar plucking that provides a gentler foundation than usual.
“Below” could have been a disaster that went committed too much to a less abrasive tone and wound up sounding like an indistinguishable indie band from the early ‘00s. Way’s singing, as well as her ever improving songwriting, made it work. It’s one of the stronger songs on the album because of it. Unfortunately, a good chunk of songs on Paradise are inevitably failed due to of how they mishandle Way’s voice.
Whatever vocal tuning they put on Way for Paradise really puts a number on how effective her usually impactful imprint can be. Too often does it come off like an Avenged Sevenfold or +44 ripoff. It sounds schlocky. The first time listening to “Hungry,” I legitimately thought it was “When Your Heart Stops Beating.”
The problem with Paradise isn’t a matter of selling out or going pop, a banal criticism that Way herself discredited in an interview with Annie Clark recently. There are plenty of great moments from their previous work that had an accessible sound, but by making such a bold modification on Way’s vocals, they killed the potential to build that success. On tracks like “Dead Weight” and “Demented,” the pace is so breakneck that it doesn’t matter as much, but then there’s a track like “Narcoleptic” that’s just too artificial and it doesn’t make for a great listen.
This is a really unfortunate aspect to this album because other than this, the incredible progress both lyrically and musically can’t be ignored. Way’s macabre sensibilities as a writer continue to become more refined, as perfectly shown on “Kiss Me When I Bleed,” and guitarist Kenneth William flaunts his guitar skills more than ever throughout.
Paradise could have easily been White Lung’s best work to date, but falls short due to them dulling the sharpest weapon in their arsenal for some reason. It doesn’t make sense! The high points are oftentimes hindered by this throughout the album and lead to quite a few missed opportunities. It’s a counterintuitive mess that lead to the album being a true missed opportunity.