White Rose Movement: Gloom Beats
White Rose Movement frontman Finn Vine bears a close resemblance to both Joy Division's Ian Curtis and Gabi Delgado-Lopez of German industrial/electronic pioneers DAF. This is no accident. From his live performance–full of nervous energy and curiously robotic dancing–you get the feeling that this rail-thin, angular boy in the fiercely buttoned-up shirt has spent hours studying the ways of underground '80s idols.
The studying has paid off. White Rose Movement's debut, Kick (Independiente), finds the five-piece amalgamating tricks from a wealth of '80s synth-pop and art-punk bands while refusing to mimic any one in particular. "London's Mine" and "Deborah Carne" have the glossy gloom of Speak & Spell-era Depeche Mode while "Love is A Number" and "Girls in the Back" meld sassy, rhythmic guitars to dramatic, androgynous vocals, a bit like Gang of Four, Duran Duran, and Suede singer Brett Anderson meeting on the dancefloor of a dark, sweaty dive bar.
Though Vine has known guitarist Jasper Milton and bassist Owen Dyke since their childhood in the sleepy English county of Norfolk, the group didn't coalesce until the three moved to London, where they met up with keyboardist Taxxi and drummer Ed Harper. (According to Milton, Harper is "the wild card" of the band," prone to "sleepwalking, pissing himself, getting into bed with people naked, and snoring like a bastard," but, he concedes, "[Ed] is pretty fucking funny and entertaining.")
Loath to cut their teeth on the London rock circuit, White Rose Movement took an alternate path to fame. "We were really reluctant to play [in] all these toilets around London," explains Vine. "So we decided to get our own club together." Finding a hidden room in the back of an old pub in the East End–an old National Front disco from the late '70s, painted pink with mirrors and a light-up swastika on the dancefloor–Vine and company started The Dazzle, a shambolic monthly where band members played obscure New Beat and industrial records alongside guests like M.I.A. and video director Chris Cunningham.
White Rose also played live at The Dazzle–from there on out it was a short road from cult following to darlings of the British rock press. Perhaps it's not surprising that mags like NME are into Kick; masterminded by producer-of-the-moment Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, Maximo Park, The Futureheads), it is full of the big, kicking bass and drum sounds that are de rigueur for the new crop of dance rock bands. But don't dismiss WRM as part of the flock quite yet–demos like the dark and raw "Thanks For Nothing" and "White Swan" sound like lost Siouxsie & The Banshees or Cure b-sides, suggesting there's a good deal yet to be squeezed from these stones.