It’s always rare to see a band graduate from DIY rabble-rousers to PTA presidents, especially when they start out as legendarily raucous as Vancouver punks White Lung. Who knew that a decade after front woman Mish Barber-Way sang “Steel-toed boots / Smash rubber chains” on “Thick Lips,” she’d be a mother of two waxing poetic about baby weight and antidepressants? But this was always her master plan—she’s a writer as well as a musician, and she’s published pieces that grapple with the duality of carousing with “professional drunken idiots” (as she put it in an essay for Some Such Stories) while yearning for motherhood. Plenty of change has befallen the trio since the 2016 release Paradise, and they say that their new fifth album, Premonition, will be their last. During their 12-year run White Lung have attracted critical praise, opened for giants such as Refused, and earned a cosign from Courtney Love, all while remaining underground darlings.
White Lung have studded their final outing with jewels of the past. Barber-Way’s yawp is as catty as ever, Kenneth William’s riffs are still whiplash inducing, and Anne-Marie Vassiliou’s drumming tears hell for leather. Longtime producer Jesse Gander (Japandroids, Brutus) also returned to the fold, building a backbone for the trio’s chaotic compositions, kicking drums, and unhinged riffs. Adding to the album’s significance, Premonition is by Barber-Way’s admission the first time she wrote and recorded vocal tracks sober. Pregnant and hungry for inspiration, she used her sharp-tongued storytelling as an avenue for understanding the changes within and beyond her body. As a result, Barber-Way devised some of her most compelling narratives, offering letters to an unborn son (“Bird”), cautionary tales for infant daughters (“Girl”), and romps with a cigarette-smoking God who’s got whiskey on His breath (“Date Night”).
If we’re to learn anything from the fumbled farewell of the Clash or the stilted goodbye (and unwarranted reunion) of Black Flag, it’s that punks often don’t do well with breakups. But while many bands recording a swan song might fizzle in their own hubris—reach too far or say too much in hopes of crafting the perfect farewell—White Lung are self-assured enough to bid godspeed with ten songs in 30 minutes. Premonition proves that growing up doesn’t mean forfeiting the ferocity of youth; it means making room for the future.
White Lung’s Premonition is available through Bandcamp.