The breakneck pace at which White Denim tear through the Performance title track- one of the finest rock songs of at least the last 30 years, by the way,- is absolutely thrilling, and just one of a dozen worthy reasons to renew faith in this Texas band that has experienced several personnel shifts in their recent past. Arriving on a laser beam, the first song, and single, “Magazin” slinks its way around liberated horns and fuzzy guitars before the titular track stampedes through two minutes and twenty-five seconds of perfect rock-and-roll abandon culminating in a double-time rampage to the finish.
Nicely contrasting in tempo, these two opening salvos find a middle point on “Fine Slime,” that rides a repeating guitar riff into sonic carnage, then emerges to get funky on “Double Death,” with James Petralli’s pliable voice darting between soulful shouts and trippy falsetto as the hand-clapped chorus makes everything feel alright. “Moves On” carries with it post-new wave awareness and a careening rhythm that somehow wondrously walks punk and prog-rock down the aisle, arm-in-arm, with its sheets of intergalactic keyboards and fierce drum superfluities. Then, “It Might Get Dark” puts on a boot-stomping show, true to the Lone Star roots of the quartet that leads to a literal burst of fireworks dubbed in at the tail-end of the fabulously rawboned riffs cycling through “Sky Beaming,” again settled by Petralli’s reassuring vocal amongst another panoramic swirl of keyboards.
With an aggressive soulful energy on “Back Seat Driver” and the Frampton-esque acoustic undergirding “Good News,” the final two round off a compact, nine-song affair that demands several repeat listens to become aware of only a slight portion of all the tidy and tantalizing sonic embellishments. As much as this is an album of the trademark idiosyncrasy of White Denim songs and their stellar musical attainment, it’s also a high-water mark in production for the group. Easily, Performance is one of the best overall performances by any group this year, hailing the return of one of rock-and-roll’s most creative and artistic bands.