[HIGH AND MIGHTY] I probably don't need to mention that White Fang's new record, Grateful to Shred, sounds like shit. That's par for the course, and it's a good thing. The band has spent the entirety of its short career putting itself at a commercial disadvantage—releasing albums on cassette (well before that was in fashion); playing destructive, 15-minute sets at sweaty basement venues (or getting too wasted to play said basement venues). But more interestingly, it has kept a blurred line between the epic, youthful punk-power-ballads that have grabbed Portland fans' interest and the jokey, disjointed weed jams that White Fang just gets a huge kick out of playing.
The less-poignant numbers on Grateful to Shred (the jangly, Motown-esque "Can't Find Our Weed" and the Black Flag-style "Fuck Up a Fascist [I'm Down]," for example) sometimes seem like filler, but they're always delivered with a lingering wink and a flash of frontman Erik Gage's mischievous toothy smile. Then White Fang turns around and writes fucked-pop gems like "Not Listening" and "Small Amp." And then, just to prove it can, the band drops a masterpiece at the end of the tape: "Momma" sounds like the zombie of Gram Parsons fronting the Misfits. Closer "Feeling Shitty" is just as majestic, if just as stubbornly immature as any of the album's joke tracks.
The truth is that if you want fist-pumping, ass-kicking melodic punk songs that ring true on the topic of youthful isolation, you'd best be prepared to take them alongside some cribbed Elton John riffs and a doo-wop song about losing weed. White Fang is documenting the gnar life as it comes at them, and their transmissions come in the form of both little in-jokes and towering sonic achievements. It's all starting to sound good to me.
SEE IT: White Fang plays Wednesday, March 30, at Holocene. 8:30 pm. $5. 21+.