Calling your album The World’s Best American Band demands a hubris not traditionally associated with bands the size of White Reaper. There’s no immediate qualifier to make that statement true, which leads to a bunch of “maybe if” speculation. “Maybe if it read The World’s Best American Garage Rock Band?” But that’s not right. “Maybe if it read The World’s Best American Indie Band?” But even that doesn’t feel close, not while Yo La Tengo are still out there in the world. “Maybe if it read The World’s Best American Rock Band From Louisville, Kentucky?”, but then we’d be overlooking My Morning Jacket and we should NEVER overlook My Morning Jacket. So let’s examine the title of White Reaper’s fantastic third record word-by-word so we can crawl into the headspace of how, and if, White Reaper could be the world’s best American band.
In English, “the” is a definite article. It’s the only one. So, naturally for such a haughty title, using our language’s ONLY definite article is kind of essential. This isn’t “A World’s Best American Band,” that would imply some kind of other-worldliness and would probably be talking about GWAR. And it’s not “An World’s Best American Band” because that’s grammatically incorrect and if you’re the best American band in the world, you don’t make those kinds of silly errors. So far, this title is off to a great start.
So “World’s” brings in a geographic element to this title that allows us to conceptualize just how much weight this statement has. Here’s are a series of alternate titles that prove why it HAS to be “World”:
The County’s Best American Band: This is pretty hoaky. It’s really hard to take someone touting that they’re the best American band in the COUNTY seriously. Are they playing a state fair? Do they play Van Halen cover songs? C’mon.
The State’s Best American Band: Pretty vague. What state? If that state is Alaska, maybe? If that state is Tennessee, probably not.
The Country’s Best American Band: There are two scenarios here. The first is that the country in question is the good ‘ol U.S. of A, and the competition for that mantle is very dense. The second is that you’re in a different country, say, the Union of Comoros, a series of islands north of Madagascar whose population is less than one million. In that scenario it’s probably not just safe to say, but probably a GIVEN, that you’re the country’s best American band. This statement is cheap, isn’t very ballsy, and isn’t very rock ‘n roll.
The Continent’s Best American Band: This question kind of falls back to country’s (see above) unless you’re talking about Antarctica, and if you were talking about Antarctica you should just come out and name the album Antarctica’s Best American Band and call it a day because that’s cool as fucking hell.
The Galaxy’s Best American Band: Well we’d have to specify which galaxy and I don’t work for NASA. Again, this probably goes to GWAR based on principle, but depending on the galaxy the Cantina band from A New Hope is also a strong candidate.
The Universe’s Best American Band: There is almost a zero percent chance of that being true. Somewhere out there the vastness of space is an alien band that’s creating a sound so definitively American it would blow our tiny human brains to kingdom come.
So as you can see, “World” is really the most appropriately prideful title, as it’s big enough to be impactful, vague enough to avoid any immediate comparisons, and almost believable while still making logical sense.
Let’s skip “Best” for a moment, because I’d like to tackle that one last, and jump to “American.”
When covering The Continent’s Best American Rock Band, there was something I failed to address and I’d like to do so here: What if they’re talking about South America?
Consider it for a moment. Name all the South American bands you can off the top of your head. If I’m being honest, the only thing I came up with is the David Byrne song “Waters of March” that features some Portuguese singing and was used on the compilation charity album Red Hot + Rio. Other than that I have nothing. So if White Reaper were trying to say they were the best South American band, well, I’m kind of inclined to believe it.
The word “Band,” more than the word “The,” is the truest word used in this album title, as White Reaper are a band and that cannot be disputed. Insert any other noun in place of “Band” and the title becomes ridiculous and untrue. The World’s Best American Potato. See? That would apply to the Idaho potato, not the band White Reaper.
Thus far this title really has very few issues, but declaring something the “Best” isn’t to be taken lightly. So naturally, “Best” is the most problematic word in the title. Remove it and you have the title The World’s American Band. This title is pretty patriotic and posits them to be some kind of Captain America-esque icons whose most defining feature is their American-ness and that title is admittedly pretty badass.
But claiming to be the “BEST” of anything is always problematic. When I was eleven years old, I thought I did the BEST impression of Austin Powers on the planet and this was not true for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I had never seen an Austin Powers movie, I had only seen a Pepsi Twist ad featuring the title character and pop star Britney Spears. (Side thought: maybe if Kendall Jenner had had Austin Power’s around her ad would’ve gone over more smoothly, just sayin’.) As such, the lexicon of the impression was pretty much limited to Pepsi jargon. Embarrassingly, I recreated that commercial during a talent show at a camp retreat and my mom played Britney Spears. Not a high point. The second reason is that Mike Myers is still alive and, by definition, he does the best Austin Power’s impression on the planet. Even as I’m writing this, I’m not even confident that this is the “Best” analysis of the band White Reaper, as that probably goes toSteven Hydenover at UPROXX and even THAT is a statement neither he nor I could argue for or against with any kind of certainty. Being the BEST at anything is just as hard to achieve as it is to prove.
But let’s at least try to assume that White Reaper is the “Best”. We have a relatively small sample size to work with regarding White Reaper. They’ve been a band since 2014 and in that span they’ve released three albums and each of those albums is really good. Their first one, White Reaper, is only 6 songs and 16 minutes and it explosively delivers some amazing rippers that cross section the manic raw energy of Black Flag with the bombastic fun of The Hives. White Reaper Does It Again, their 2015 follow up, amps up the production by including keyboards and more polished vocals, and explores the bubblegum pop elements the band had kept close to the vest prior. But neither of these things really put White Reaper in the category of “Best” and it leads to a much more existential question we’d have to answer which is: Who really IS the best American band?
The answer to this question is probably The Beach Boys. If we wanted to be technically accurate, The Band is probably the best American “Band”, but for my money it would be The Beach Boys. It could also be The Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Velvet Underground, the Grateful Dead, Metallica, the Talking Heads, and probably about a dozen others. For comparisons sake, I think we can all agree that White Reaper isn’t really in that pantheon yet.
But if we had to list the best American bands RIGHT NOW? Well let’s say, for the sake of making a legitimate argument, that when we say “band” we mean “rock band” and when we mean “rock band” we’re thinking of straight laced rock and roll, the kind that Lester Bangs would hypothetically appreciate and that dads in 30 years will play for their kids only to have them not get it. Now that’s a different list, a list that would require two things: 1) that the band currently be working and 2) that they make rock and roll, true to whatever form we consider rock and roll. For the sake of argument, let’s go with my vague definition listed above.
Immediately, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam jump to mind but they’re more legacy act than active rock band, and regardless they’re not particularly relevant to the current underlying conversation of the genre. Instead, we must turn to the shadows where rock now lives and, you know what? After this new album, I’m not so afraid to toss White Reaper’s name in with bands like Titus Andronicus or Beach Slang or The Men or the Hold Steady, bands that make music that is exciting and inventive but still indebted (sometimes to a fault) to American rock traditionalism. So are they the BEST American band right now? They’re certainly the most recent best American band right now.
Verdict: Title Approved
Obviously, we have to bend the title a bit to make it fit, but the facts check out. White Reaper build a solid case for themselves as being the best American band. Prior to the release of this record that case would’ve been stretched thin but on LP 3 the band has really hit a sweet spot. The World’s Best American Band emphatically pushes the Polyvinyl signed garage rockers onto a new level. It’s got crisp guitar riffs and arena sized choruses that feature zealous teenage rock motifs like “If you make the girls dance the boys will dance with them” or “Oh girl, let me lean close, listen to your heartbeat,” lines that are admittedly cheesy but dotingly fun. And while the brand of rock White Reaper are indulging in might not be fresh or hip or cool these days, I’d say it’s enough to strengthen their application as the world’s best American band.