It’s getting to be time for a new White Mystery album and as you can see by the album cover for F.Y.M.S. (out on 4/20, PREORDER here for DIGITAL or VINYL) they’re not fucking around. Don’t be fooled by the vivid image the title conjures, however, as this record is probably the most polished I’ve heard from the White siblings so far.
That’s not to say it isn’t still gritty as hell. Album opener “Ton Up Kid” barrels through the riffs you’d expect from the band, with shout-along choruses and drum flurries in the bridge. “Black Heart Crusader” is more metal than thrash, Francis pounding out meaty grooves while Alex’s dark guitar works it’s magic. Title track “FYMS” evokes memories of a young Frank Black as Alex spits Greek insults over a driving backdrop and rocks out to a foul-mouthed chorus, an anthem easily adaptable to your personal favorite dirtbag.
White Mystery’s trademark humor still permeates their sound as well. Francis follows up his sardonic stream-of-consciousness rant from last album with the very NSFW “Mars Death Pact.” The preceding track “Wear Your Sunblock” sounds like a fight song for every redhead who’s ever been called soulless. “Dream Cum” is a pure acid-pop chant, I imagine ideal for use in festival medic tents to bring people down from bad trips.
Dig deeper and you’ll find more than just tongue-in-cheek punk bombast. Alex’s singing voice is cleaner than on most records, more deliberate, almost like she doesn’t want her words obscured by any fuzz or reverb. Belted out lines like “Just another day with more bad news/ I could use a habit that’s good” give hints that eight years on the road may be having a cumulative effect. Other tracks explore similar ground over rock arrangements that reach back to before 1977, drawing from punk’s powerpop and even garage/rockabilly rock forebears.
Last year I reviewed their 2016 release Outta Control and pointed out that the album felt like White Mystery was giving us a closer, quieter glimpse into their private world of sibling in-jokes and secrets. And while F.Y.M.S. is just as open and humorous, the production is more streamlined, the tones stronger and clearer. The experience is less a tape machine and more like a diary; subtly deeper and more personal.
Lately division seems like the order of the day and any kind of sensitivity is often dismissed as weakness, it feels like more of a risk to reveal oneself as vulnerable. With F.Y.M.S. White Mystery defiantly proclaims with characteristic fearlessness that you can have insecurities and still walk through the world with strength and swagger.