Reuniting with producer Ed Buller, who helmed their first and third albums, White Lies recapture the urgency and anthemic hooks of their early sound and add a sophistication that feels right for a band a decade into their career on 2019's Five. In many ways the album isn't that different from the London trio's previous work. Still showcased is lead singer and instrumentalist Harry McVeigh's brooding baritone, along with bassist Charles Cave and drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown. Together, they offer up a moody, often propulsive set that draws upon various touchstones, from driving Joy Division-style post-punk ("Never Alone") and synthy new wave romanticism ("Time to Give") to Boy-era U2 kineticism ("Jo?")." That said, there's more guitar here, including gargantuan slabs of bass and deft laser jab riffage. They even dabble in some echoey Pink Floyd-style space twang on "Kick Me." Equally compelling is the glammy "Denial," which matches a memorable chorus hook with lyrics that evoke the ennui of having reached your thirties and settled into a kind of domestic mundanity. McVeigh sings "Four kids and a cat, might as well be called five." Elsewhere, the band achieve even more dichotomous emotional uplift, tackling themes of loneliness and urban disconnection on "Tokyo," which taps into a dusky Giorgio Moroder-esque club groove before smashing through the glass of your emotions with a big pop chorus. Similarly, "Believe It," with its pounding bass and glassy synth accents, finds the band wrestling with "the fear" and notions of therapeutic release. While there's not any major conceptual through-line here, one of the most impressive aspects of Five is the album's balanced flow, which evokes the A- and B-side aesthetic of the vinyl age.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar