When it comes to timing, no other album thus far in 2017 can beat The World’s Best American Band by feisty Louisville trad-rockers White Reaper. Set for release this Friday, April 7, The World’s Best American Band arrives just as spring comes into full bloom in most areas of the country. If White Reaper’s third album had arrived a month or two ago, it wouldn’t have quite the same impact. But people are now just starting to roll down their car windows, and seek out music to blast into the fresh April air. And The World’s Best American Band will likely rank among the year’s very best car-stereo rock records. It demands to be played at a high volume, preferably while driving slightly too fast down an open road.
Formed by four boyhood friends in 2014, White Reaper established itself as a solid garage-rock outfit on records like 2014’s White Reaper and 2015’s White Reaper Does It Again. But The World’s Best American Band represents a significant step forward in every conceivable way — the songwriting is sharper and catchier, the production is bigger and slicker, and the attitude has been kicked up several notches. While the band was previously lumped in with the Ty Segalls of the world, White Reaper now openly apes the glory days of ‘7os and ’80s arena rock, with each deliriously riff-y track aimed squarely for the same pleasure centers that respond to all-night keggers and monster-truck rallies.
But White Reaper aren’t mere revivalist knuckle-draggers. Even if every song on The World’s Best American Band sounds like an attempt to out-par-tay Van Halen’s “Panama” — White Reaper doesn’t quite get there, but comes shockingly close on many occasions — the level of craft on display is undeniable. “Judy French,” in particular, is one of the year’s best rock songs, synthesizing seemingly incongruous elements of rock history — it sounds like .38 Special covering the Smiths, except amazing — in a way that belies the youth of the band members. (Everyone hovers around the age of 23.)