A common complaint leveled against Athens, Georgia trio the Whigs is that they've been too stuck in the past, determined to re-create the glory days of grunge. They do their best to shake off these criticisms on their fourth album Enjoy the Company, leaving behind heavy, churning riffs in favor of bright, effervescent guitar pop that places melody front and center. By embracing such clear-eyed pop and spiking their hooks with horns -- they're there on the opening "Staying Alive," goosing the chorus to greater heights -- they're inviting comparisons with Spoon, and they come out quite favorably.
Athens, Ga. , power trio delivers another impressive set of booming interstate anthems Over the span of 10 years and four albums, The Whigs have simmered their energetic, overdriven, no-frills rock sound to its potent essence. It’s been a low-and-slow process made possible by their road-dogged work ethic and keen focus, but even a band with such simple purity of vision can get lost in the whirlwind cycle of touring and making records.
If you looked at the flip side of the jewel case for this Athens, Georgia group’s fourth CD, Enjoy the Company, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the entire thing was one big throwback. “Staying Alive”, the opening cut and longest track clocking in at more than eight minutes, might make you think of a certain Bee Gees mega hit. “Thank You” might have you recalling Led Zeppelin’s second album.
The story of The Whigs goes something like this: Three aspiring rockers out of the University of Georgia formed a band that emerged in the mid-aughts with their sophomore LP, Mission Control, which provided Dandy Warhols fans a safe alternative for their it’s-five-o’clock-on-a-sunny-Friday, downtown, happy hour rawk fixes. Then, they lost a primary co-songwriter in Hank Sullivant to a little up-and-coming group called MGMT, and with one disappointing effort in 2010’s In the Dark, all that hype began to dwindle. Their fourth LP, Enjoy the Company, reveals a band who has regained some confidence in what they do best, with predictably mixed results.
Exchanging their hometown of Athens, Georgia for Woodstock, New York to record Enjoy The Company seems to have a had a converse effect on The Whigs. Whereas their previous material has painted them as a Deep South alternative to North Eastern music - brooding and slow-burning yet encompassing a unmistakable drawl - their latest record is a North Eastern version of Deep South music. As such, this is largely Southern Rock-lite: it is not brash or brazen- it is uninteresting and tedious.
In 2006, Rolling Stone named them one of "10 Artists To Watch." The Whigs haven't risen to unsung heights in the ensuing years, but the Athens, Ga., trio continues making big, noteworthy noise. With Enjoy the Company, their fourth overall and first for New West, the Whigs continue straddling a line between what can only be called grunge and melodic guitar pop. In fact, the first two tracks exemplify the dichotomy in the band's sound.