Quietly released just nine months after his last mini-LP, October's Adornment, Bo White's new quickie, Millennial Tombs — only three of its 11 tracks top three minutes — finds the ever-restless White again flitting about various styles, indulging in playful, but potent, fuck-arounds. The bouncy "Matinee" channels classic power-pop with its driving guitar and staccato piano. "Only the Lonely 2" recalls the playfully fractured pop-rock of Todd Rundgren, or perhaps Pavement's later-day updates thereof.
But White gets real, too. "Patient," Tombs' longest song, is also the most affecting, relating an extended hospital stay battling an emaciating illness. (It might be autobiographical; White was hospitalized earlier this year.) Over slow, steely, slinking soul driven by thick bass chords, White describes the haunting experience in grim detail ("I've been eating through this tube for weeks / I've been greeting them with sunken cheeks"). As the illness grows, so does White's worry: "I've been taking every pill they bring / I've been wondering if I'll ever sing again." "At least I've got the people I care about," he sings in the chorus, but the sentiment's softly sighed — seemingly more consolation more than affirmation. The brush with poor health is reference again in the memento mori-themed "Walls of Health."
Tombs, though, isn't all macabre, and some of its brightest moments come when White zags when he could have zigged. "Another Outsider" is a punks-in-love tune that's paired with some antithetical instrumentation, White delicately crooning his waltzing-time tale of a combat-booted girl finding a kindred soul with "a prominent Subhumans tat" over a twinkling Spanish guitar and graceful viola lines. "Stalking the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll" recounts rock-music history, but the percussion-less song is built on a droning organ and delicate, dissonant guitar lick. When White sings "There is no room for subtlety," one can't help but imagine it's done with a smirk.
Considering his past stints in noise band Calabi Yau and Afrobeat group Black Congo NC, Bo White's versatility certainly comes as no surprise. And by now, that White manages so many different styles so expertly isn't either. Millennial Tombs just further cements White as this town's preeminent musician.