White Reaper

The World's Best American Band

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White Reaper always had a little bit of AOR swagger knocking around the edges of their rambunctious garage rock style. Their debut album, White Reaper Does It Again, indulged in the occasional double-tracked guitar lead and Van Halen-esque bump and grind, though it was mostly swept aside by the full-throated attack of singer Tony Esposito and the clattering mess the trio whipped up in the studio. Their second album, The World's Best American Band, makes it clear right from the start that, this time around, White Reaper are embracing their album rock background with both hands, tying a bandana around their collective heads, and getting down to some radio-ready, nostalgia-driven good times, while answering the musical question almost nobody besides them ever thought to ask. Namely, what would Survivor have sounded like with Jay Reatard on lead vocals? The title track comes rocking out of the gate like an unholy union of ZZ Top's "Legs" and the Raspberries; the rest of the album follows suit in similar fashion. There are moments that bring back memories of the Cars ("Judy French") with their clear riffs and space-filling keyboards; times when it sounds like they were working on a cover of "Walk This Way" and got a little distracted by a Thin Lizzy song ("Eagle Beach"); and lots of chances for Esposito to show off the guitar chops he no doubt spent his early days honing. Probably in a bedroom covered with Molly Hatchet, Bon Jovi, and Heart posters. The rest of the bandmembers are locked in with him, creating a big, booming sound that swaggers and rocks just like their heroes. The keyboards are a big addition to the band's sound, and Ryan Hater sounds like he's studied and digested the complete works of both the Cars and Journey. It's all a stunning departure from their previous sound, and for the most part it totally works -- except for one or two times when they come off a little too slick (like on the synth-led "Little Silver Cross," which oddly sounds like Future Islands with the guitarists from DragonForce sitting in) -- especially once you set aside expectations that they might keep doing that rowdy garage rock thing they did so well. The songs are stupidly hooky and fun; Esposito yowls his way impressively through each and every moment of each and every song; there's so much good-natured strutting that David Lee Roth might get jealous; and the whole album basically sounds like it was recorded from a VCR copy of a 1978 episode of The Midnight Special. Other bands have tried this angle over the years; a couple of them even did a pretty good job (Free Energy, for one). On The World's Best American Band, White Reaper knock it out of the park, drive over it in a noisy Mustang, and deliver nothing but a good time.

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