Pretty Black features thirteen songs, almost all of them recorded in a quite spare, stripped-back way: vocals, a little piano, acoustic guitar, some upright bass. Minimal drums. Harmonica, trumpet, cello, melodica – these all make brief appearances here and there, but in general, absence of clutter defines this album.
There’s nowhere to hide here. Songwriting and performances. That’s it. That’s the record. And it’s very, very, very good.
At some point – it may be in a year, two years, ten years, who knows – this record will be referred to as ‘classic.’ As “a gem.” It will be mentioned in sentences like “Oh yeah, Pretty Black is one of my all-time favourite records.” Even some people who have never heard it, have never taken time to discover its depth and its beauty, many of those people will claim it as a favourite. Will say things like, “God I know, the White Russians made some cool records” and “Pretty Black is an awesome album.”
The choice for you – reading this now, with the CD right this moment tantalisingly close to your person – is whether you’d like to be ahead of the game, or whether you wish to play catch-up later on. Whether you’d like to be the person who says, “Oh yeah I always loved Will Oldham / Joy Division / Tom Waits / Guns & Roses / Modest Mouse / A-Ha” when everybody knows that you missed that boat completely, or whether you’d like to sit back, say nothing and have everyone else acknowledge that you were the one, you were the person digging the Russians long before anybody. You were always playing Pretty Black in the car. People notice that shit. People respect it, talk about it, worship it way more than people worship, for instance, God.
So. The sad fact is, a lot of people won’t get this record. A lot of people will be too short on time, attention-span, intelligence and let’s face it, just too short on taste. Some people just don’t have the goods. (The fact that most of those people are running the world today, and in particular the music industry, is, let’s face it, a bit of a downer). But let’s not get side-tracked. Let’s not allow ourselves to be brought down by the failings of others. Because today is a day of rejoicing. The White Russians are back with a brand-new album, and it’s great. And you’ve got yourself a copy. AND – bonus of all bonuses, The White Russians are still relatively unknown in this country. Wildly under-appreciated. Yet to be discovered, yet to be declared genius. Which means that you can discover, you can declare, you can be the one.