Not only do The Barenaked Ladies put on one hell of a live show, they also have impeccable taste in opening bands. I’ve seen BNL live four times in the past five or six years, and they haven’t missed yet. The past two years, they’ve had legends like Colin Hay, OMD, Howard Jones, and the Violent Femmes, but in 2013 it was a little-known Canadian duo by the name of Whitehorse.
Whitehorse is Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet, who have also had solo careers before getting together as Whitehorse.
It took about, oh, maybe thirty seconds before I was completely hooked by the band. When playing live, they make extensive use of loops and multiple instruments to get a full sound. It’s fascinating to watch them perform, building the layers to their songs — while at the same time, their songs are completely irresistible.
Naturally I snagged their albums immediately after the show, and The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss has become one of my all-time favorites.
From the first track, “Achilles’ Desire,” which kicks the album off with sinewy guitar and Doucet’s impassioned delivery, all the way to the last strains of “Mexico Texico” Fate of the World is a rewarding journey.
Singly, Doucet and McClellan have great voices. Sparks really fly when they sing together, though. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham have nothing on this pair. Well, maybe not nothing but my money’s on Whitehorse.
Check out this video for “Devil’s Got a Gun.” The album version is a little cleaner and a bit richer sound-wise, but their live in the studio take is just as electric.
“Cold July,” is a beautiful and haunting piece that will stick with you for days afterward. Be forewarned, Fate of the World harbors a number of earworms. I usually have “Cold July” stuck in my head for at least a week after listening to it.
“Jane” is a slinky little number with some excellent guitar and bass work. Echoes of surf guitar and complex bass make this one so much fun.
There’s a little tinge of rockabilly here and there, and more than a little 60s/Beatlesque tinge to some of the frills in “Out Like a Lion.”
“No Glamour In The Hammer,” brings the groove and more irresistible bass work. Actually that sounds like there’s a limited amount of groove on the album, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Just listen to “Radiator Blues” and you’ll see what I mean.
For a two-piece, Whitehorse manages to develop a lush, complex sound that holds up to repeated listening. They do have a little additional help in the studio, but they did an amazing job recreating that complexity live as well.
Oh, in addition to being a ridiculously talented duo, they’re also super-nice in person. After turning in a blistering set, they came out to sign merch in the lobby before BNL took the stage. In addition to signing CDs they were kind enough to let me get a picture with them while I fanboyed out about their set.
Fate of the World is on Spotify, Google Play Music, and other services – so you’ve no excuse not to check them out. If their success is commensurate with their talent, this pair is going to take over the world.