I've been listening to releases on the Tigerbeat6 label for some time now, and Smoke very well may be the most straightforward pop-oriented album that they've ever put out. White Williams is recording name for one Joe Williams, and this debut release finds him putting together a batch of eleven brisk songs that are influenced by everything from glam rock to glitch pop, with production techniques that tweak pitch in woozy ways and emphasize ambiguity.
Despite the atrocious cover art, Williams has actually put together a fairly solid batch of music here, with some of the usual debut stumbles to keep things grounded. It opens with some of the most consistent tracks on the entire release, with the clubby, bouncy flair of "Headlines" and the fuzzed-out 70s-inspired "In The Club" (where Williams does his best coarsed-up Bowie impression). "New Violence" is even more impressive, with blistering waves of guitar rippling across fuzzy synths and a cracking beat with downright sing-along choruses. "Going Down" changes things up with a super funky bassline and more of Williams' breathy croon as oddly-pitched synths and improv-style percussion blinks in and out of the mix.
The latter third of the release is where things don't stack up quite as well, and it all starts off with a well-intentioned, but uneventful cover of "I Want Candy." It's one of those tracks that already has enough tongue-in-cheek baggage (not to mention the fact that it's already been covered by a ton of people already), and the reworking tweaks it with some weird effects and guitars but doesn't take it far enough to push it past ironic cover status. "Fleetwood Crack" is another fairly limp number that doesn't live up to earlier work on the album, while "Lice In The Rainbow" closes out the release with over three minutes of completely needless screeching electronic noise.
Of course, sandwiched in those aforementioned tracks is "Route To Palm," a glorious track that sprints along with jangling guitars and a crisp rhythm section while spurts of woozy synths crop up in places and add a hint of the off-kilter strangeness that the album dolls out so nicely. As with most other first releases, though, it's a a bit inconsistent in places, but all in all, Smoke is a fun and sometimes great debut from a young artist.