The white flag has been a prevalent symbol throughout history. Though through the decades it has had a varied amount of meanings as to what it represents; anything from signaling the final lap of a race to a version of a flag used briefly by the Confederate States of America from 1863 until 1865 when the design was changed due to the fear that it represented a truce. This is the most commonly known and understood definition of the white flag. Truce or surrender. If an opposing force flew up this white flag you knew they wished to throw down their arms and admit defeat, or at the very least wanted to sit down to talks of negation. This flag, aside from being massively known as something physically symbolic of so much is also quite popular when used as a metaphor. Many a folk have gotten into such an intensive argument of which they feel is leading nowhere, and as to avoid further confrontation they metaphorically throw in the white flag. There is an unlimited number of examples in which this analogy can be applied, but what better paradigm than a relationship with a significant other. This seems to be the overlying theme of Normandie’s sophomore release entitled, White Flag. An allegorical representation of the struggles and trials that one can encounter and experience when dealing with their loved one and the possible downfalls and failures that come with said issues. As usual the band uses not only their carefully thought and planned out lyrics to convey these stories, but the aspects of their sound are strategically nuanced as the backbone to each and every emotion. You can feel the surrender in each and every track of White Flag.
The title track in both name, subject matter, and sonically epitomizes the definition of surrender. Beginning with palm muted guitars which envelope the listeners heart with a sense of defeat and vocalist Philip Strand’s uniquely beautiful voice delivering a tone that says ‘I know I’ve lost. I’m giving up’. Lyrically the song speaks of a relationship that has all but met its demise. For all intents and purposes, it is done and yet the individuals involved persist down fruitless paths in the hopes of remedying what’s too far broken. This finally culminates in one of the parties just admitting defeat. Throwing up the white flag. They know that they cannot continue on what would in the end only become something even more toxic and for the betterment of themselves, they must end things and move on. The chorus in both tonality of the instruments and delivery of the vocals only helps to echo this sentiment ten-fold. The chosen chords and their progression have a sense of longing all the while enforcing a feeling of a new sense of direction. Strand’s notes are filled with a sadness and purpose all at once. This song was a perfect example of the definition of a white flag and sets a more than perfect tone for the rest of the album as a whole.
Normandie do a more than phenomenal job of subtly melding different genres of rock into one. In 2013 they released a self titled EP which featured a much different sound than what fans are used to today. This EP was metalcore at its heaviest. Fast forward three years later to the release of their debut full length and it’s as if they were an entirely different band, just under the same moniker. Inguz brought the listening audience a sound much closer to the realm of alternative rock mixed in with elements of other subgenres including (but not limited to) pop. This transition in sound happened seamlessly and was extremely well received by many listeners over. They had formed this new sound without losing edge, but by adding in those pop like influences it gave their over all tone a larger sense of purpose and emotion. This continues on White Flag and is more than prevalent on “(Don’t) Need You”. Thematically this continues the sense of surrender, although sometimes that doesn’t mean that you have given up but more so that you know something isn’t working and there’s no sense in trying something over and over when you know there will be no other outcome (definition of insanity anyone?). Much like the title track this song seems to deal with a relationship that has come to an end, yet one individual seems content in living in the toxicity they have been creating. Luckily though the other person involved knows that nothing is worth that level of anger and torment and is more than fine on making it clear that they wont stand for it anymore (as much as they may still love them). The song incorporates quite a bit of electronic elements that when mixed with the rhythm of the other instruments provides a pop like delivery. The subject matter is serious and although the music provides this tone overall, this said delivery helps the song still be accessible to a broader audience.
One of the greatest aspects of a band like Normandie is their seemingly limitless abilities when it comes to adapting and molding their talents (one might add, absolutely effortlessly) into absolutely any form of rock music. Whether it be a heavy hitter, a pop-tinged alternative rock diddy, or a harmonious and airy feeling song that’s almost reminiscent of a ballad, they more than have the skills and chops to get the job done. White Flag is riddled with examples of this, but none better than “The Bell”. Predicated on the premise of everyone but yourself being able to see that what you had hoped to be your most absolute and resolute love, is in actuality everything that is destroying you and who you truly are. Even when you start to catch on to this fact, you’re still under the impression that this is exactly what you want. Exactly what you need. Musically the first forty seconds of the song is nothing more than tones and light electronic drumming with Philip Strand’s longingly wishful and hopeful voice. There are times an effect is used to make Strand’s voice sound as if it’s going through a tunnel, which only adds to the impact the band seemingly hopes to convey with such an emotionally charged song. The most absolutely stunning part of the song is during the bridge, when Strand sings in his native Swedish tongue. Even for the many who don’t understand the words being sung, there is a beauty to what’s heard that regardless of whatever language it is that you speak, you can almost feel what’s being said and its intensity is much more amplified. Google translate (totally understood it’s not always 100% accurate) provided that some of what was said may be ‘No one sees me as you do. No one else gives me life when everything else dies’…this speaks volumes when considering the fact that we can love someone so much, that even when they hurt us they still do so much more for us in the end. This notion is entirely true and yet correlates so perfectly with the flip side of the fact that the relationship is still not what is best for you. “The Bell” is bewitching yet haunting all at once.
At only one minute and eighteen seconds “Summer”, much like the season, is the shortest track on White Flag. There is always the defeat of and surrender to the untimely ending of love but there can also be a surrender to the beginning. Carried only by ambient and atmospheric tones, a single softly strummed guitar, and Strand’s soaring vocals the track speaks of a man who wishes for exactly that. The beginning of something wonderful, yet it was not meant to be. Much like the seasons change and summer leads way to fall, this hopeful romance had come and gone and now this man must live with all that he feels and knows. The song is short for sure, but absolutely lacks no sweetness. Not much more needs to be said about a song such as this, and when you hear it you’ll smile and know why. It’s perfect as is for what it’s intended to be.
Perhaps the closest the band gets to their most true and absolute form of pop rock is with a song that definitely has a misleading title in regard to its overall tone. “Keep Fucking It Up” is exactly that though. It is extremely fun and bouncy pop rock, who’s self deprecating message is what makes it that much more amusing and relatable. The intro of the song has an almost staple (one could call it textbook, but in the best possible way) pop intro with an electronic sample and tone muted drumming, which then kicks into a rhythmic almost danceable delivery. Sonically almost the entire song is actually entirely upbeat sounding even though the lyrics tell you this person is doing exactly what the title tells you. They keep fucking up! No matter what obstacle they face, no matter what standards are set (regardless of being their own or someone else’s), no matter how many times they try anything they just can’t ever seem to get it right. A feeling that after some time becomes all too familiar. A feeling that everyone reading this and eventually listening to the song will know all too well. The song is absolute toe tapping, head bobbing blast and regardless of this potentially being an actual sever problem or not, you’ll relish in the fact that this song has ever been made and things won’t seem so shitty after all. You’re not alone here, and that’s alright.
The white flag has a multitude of meanings and definitions, and yet as stated before the most common and well known is the symbol of defeat and surrender. This, much like the vast amount of definitions, can also have a seemingly never-ending list of examples which then begets a further list of both negative and positive. You can surrender defeat in an epic battle or fight, an individual can surrender their beliefs in respect to someone else’s, you can surrender and object to another individual, and you can absolutely surrender to the powers of love and joy. No matter the situation the definition of the white flag can be applied and that is exactly what Normandie has done with twelve incredible tracks. The theme dictates each and every song’s subject matter, yet not once does it feel repeated or overdone. With White Flag the boys in Normandie have once again proved that no absolute form of rock will contain them to any one single mold or construct of how they play it all out. From the more intense banger to something softer and more toned down, the Swedish group knows no bounds. There is a song for everyone on White Flag regardless of the fact that you may be looking for relatable lyrical content or a song to rock out to. Hopefully Normandie has no intentions of throwing in the white flag on their career, because this album has set forth an even brighter future.