1995 was quite a year in music. Oasis were building their ‘Wonderwall’, the Manic’s Richey Edwards went missing, The Beatles returned with ‘Free As A Bird, The Smashing Pumpkins released their sprawling masterpiece Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and a band from my home town released their debut album on the same label as The Stone Roses.
Whiteout had been a fixture on the Greenock music scene for years prior to this. Featuring a number of different line ups over the years they finally settled on Andrew Caldwell (Jones) on vocals, Eric Lindsay on guitar, Paul Carroll on bass and Stuart Smith on drums. This period of the band produced five amazing singles and, of course, their debut album, Bite It.
If you were around at the time your first introduction to the band may have been on Channel 4’s late night music and mayhem show, The Word. The band turned in a statement of intent performance of lead single ‘No Time’. This was down to all the hard work put in playing live up and down the country honing their skills ready for the spotlight. Including a co-headlining tour with a certain up and coming five-piece from Manchester.
‘Starrclub’ with its T-Rex swagger and jubilant chorus hooked us in to the bands sound even more. By the time ‘Detroit’ and ‘Jackie’s Racing’ came out we were ready for an album. Now, over 25 years later Bite It and Young Tribe Rule, previously a Japanese exclusive CD, are getting the vinyl reissue treatment they deserve.
This led me to dig out my old battered copy of Bite It to revisit those songs of my youth. I thought it would be fun to write about them as if they were just releasing the album today.
It also got me thinking about what the writing process for the album was like and what the bands main musical influences at the time were. Who better to tell us than Whiteout’s guitarist, Eric Lindsay.
“The album was recorded over a couple of years over three or four sessions in three different studios with three different engineers! The songs tended to be written by Andrew and Paul who would then bring them to rehearsal where we would arrange them together. Inspiration came in many forms but Jackie’s Racing , for example, was inspired by a newspaper headline about BBC legend Jackie Bird!!”
“Paul was really the musical director of the band and had a vast knowledge (and record collection) of all shades. He tended to be in charge of the tour bus playlist!! We listened to a lot of what you would expect in the way of 60s and 70s psychedelic pop and rock, but also lots of jazz, soul, R&B and rap.”
So with that knowledge let’s stick the record on and give it a spin.
The album opens on the stuttering, stop start riff of ‘Thirty Eight’. A real party song if ever there was one. It’s a perfect way to start. Between Caldwell’s ebullient vocal delivery and Lindsay’s call and response guitar lines it kicks thing off at pace, setting the scene nicely.
The single ‘No Time’ is next with its uber optimistic lyric and energetic delivery this should’ve been a much bigger hit. Really pay attention to the melodic bass on this one. Carroll picking out a counter to Lindsay’s lead. It’s pop perfection. You can enjoy that classic performance from The Word here.
We get a slight change in pace for the acoustic led ‘We Should Stick Together’. The country style licks on show here giving a nod to the Faces whilst the melody, clearly Chilton inspired, providing a neat foil.
Side B starts with the latter-day ‘Maggie May’, ‘Jackie’s Racing’. It’s rare you hear an acoustic lead guitar line these days, never mind one this good. The lad’s harmony vocals are on point here and no wonder it was their highest performing single.
We head off into cosmic rock territory with ‘Shine on You’ next. The descending chords of the chorus are absolutely devastating. Especially after the drone-like bassline in the verses. Again, check out the fingerboard gymnastics Carroll is demonstrating. This track wouldn’t be out of place on Dr Byrds & Mr Hyde, from me that’s as high a compliment as it gets.
The side closes out with ‘No More Tears’, an epic ballad. Hewn from the same rock as Richards and Jagger it builds slowly to its anthemic refrain of “you’ve got to get someone in your life”. Smith’s sympathetic stick work is superb as is Lindsay’s guitar, in perpetual motion. Fret work rivalling anything his label mate John Squire produced.
The second disc moves on with the light and shade of the rockier ‘Altogether’. This song makes a great use of trading the lighter sound of the acoustic with the more bass heavy tones of the chugging electric guitar. Result being it’s incredibly catchy and a real earworm. Man, this band had hooks for weeks.
The sleazy drawl intro of ‘You Drag Me’ sounds like the guitar trying to have a drunken conversation in a dark and dingy night club. Again, it’s Smith’s steady rhythm that keeps this one on track with the band swaggering around their instruments in a quite heady way.
After all that we’re ready to chill out a bit. Thankfully the band agrees and they treat us to the ballad ‘Baby, Don’t Give Up On Me Yet’. How are we this far into the album and the songwriting quality just keeps going up? Lindsay is on fire throughout with his deft lead being the counter to Caldwell’s vocal.
The closing side opens with the beautiful ‘You Left Me Seeing Stars’. The Chiltonesque guitars soar over Caldwell’s longing vocal. The bass providing a potent counter melody that cuts through in the instrumental breaks. This allows Lindsay the room to create a wall of guitars in the closing section that slowly fades from view.
‘Everyday’ does that amazing trick Whiteout do so well. The verses move along all languid and serpentine before the choruses explode. With the addition of a brass section courtesy of the NFL Horns this is a serious explosion of hooks and licks.
That leaves the final cut on the album to be ‘Untitled’. A string laden ballad that comes straight from the heart. Fans of Big Star will find a lot to love here. The complex verse structure and chord changes into the aaaahs that lead us into the next verse are sublime. This is the perfect way to round out this incredible collection of songs.
Unlike like a lot of their 90’s alumni, Whiteout’s debut album remains as vital and refreshing to listen to as it did back in 1995. There’s a timeless quality to the songwriting and performances in these grooves that will endear their sound to all the generations to come.
Bite It and Young Tribe Rule are available now on vinyl from Demon Music Group and from your favourite record shops.
Follow Whiteout on social media here…