“White Fang are the boisterously beating heart of Portland’s DIY punk scene. They’ve played almost every basement within a 10-mile radius of the Willamette River. In addition to recently touring with hometown heroes the Thermals, they book their own tours. They forego studio time in favor of bedroom and basement recording. They even own their own small-run cassette label, Gnar Tapes and Shit. As a band, all hallmarks of sophistication are pushed straight through a closed window; White Fang are mostly about gleeful destruction and infectious cacophony. As the title of this album concretely suggests, Grateful to Shred does not look to transform the band’s M.O. to something more nuanced.
Grateful to Shred‘s greatest asset is its youthful vigor, which is manifested in a number of ways throughout the album’s eleven tracks. “Sooner or later, gonna wind up dead,” shouts frontman Erik Gage over the Camaro-rock of the album’s title track, as if to explain the mentality behind his band’s righteous thrash. “Small Amp” and “Messy” are would-be garage-rock anthems, while “Beatles of Death” plays as the younger brother (or maybe even the son) of the Misfits and most of the acts on SST. The awesomely named “Fuck Up a Fascist (I’m Down)” contains menacing guitar work and a chant during the first verse that sounds a lot like “Google that shit” if you’re not paying close enough attention. The second verse of “Not Listening” finds Gage shifting from childlike coo to cracked lunacy in the turn of a single phrase that any post-adolescent can relate to: “I was thinking ’bout sleep/ AND HOW I DON’T NEED IT,” voice crazed and breaking while forcing out the second line. The hilariously comical “Can’t Find My Weed” sounds like what would probably happen if Afroman hijacked your teenage neighbor’s garage-pop band; sure, it’s jokey, but the fun is contagious.
For all of the band’s punk primitivism, Grateful to Shred also occasionally diverts from that formula. “Funny Disguises” follows the lead of Marnie Stern in trying to make fingertapping cool again, while “Gnar Shred”– a remake of a freakout from their 2008 debut LP, Pure Evil— is a short jaunt featuring just cheap hand drums, tambourines, and anti-harmonized vocals. Though it serves as more of a sketch or interlude than a fully fleshed-out song (just like the original), it manages to still be atonal and defiantly punk (just like the original), and displays the band just having a good time, even though it’s entirely unessential as a tune.
Closing track “Feeling Shitty” continues the band’s proclivity to shirk ambiguously poetic song titles, as Gage sings, “I woke up today feeling kinda shitty/ Feeling kinda bad for myself,” over cymbal taps and unreasonably distorted guitar. As all of the instruments explode on their way to the song’s end, it feels like a moment of teenage catharsis, as if generating a metric ton of noise is the only way the band can shake off a bummer day. Not only could there not have been a better title for this album than Grateful to Shred, but it’s also a testament to why grabbing a bunch of instruments with your friends and creating music– whether it’s in our basements or a $100-an-hour studio– is so therapeutic for so many of us.” – Pitchfork