Release Date: Jan 22, 2008
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Review by Mike Burr.
The Whigs were showered with praise for their self-released 2005 debut, Give ’Em All A Big Fat Lip, which may have raised unfair expectations. They’re a good band who show promise, but you can’t help but suspect that much of the attention lavished on them may have been due to nostalgia for the alt-rock glories of Dinosaur Jr., the Replacements and Pavement, since the Whigs are firmly rooted in that era and sound. The Whigs are at their best when they embrace their more overt pop sensibilities over the wall-of-guitars thing, but it sounds like they need to expand their record collections.
Perhaps it isn't intentional that the Whigs' name is a truncation of the Afghan Whigs -- this quartet doesn't sound much like the arty soul-rock of Greg Dulli's Cincinnati outfit -- but it's surely deliberate that this trio recalls alt-rock's heyday of 1993 on their second album, Mission Control. Not that Mission Control would have held its own with Gentlemen or Saturation if it showed up in 1993, but this tight, 11-track collection niftily clocking in at under 40 minutes, has the sound and feel of the bottom of 120 Minutes' Buzz Bin (not to mention the look: those defaced '70s snapshots are uncannily reminiscent of the '90s). The Whigs are vaguely rootless, sounding like any number of '90s alt-rock favorites -- those rolling, octave-jumping guitars could be compared to Pavement, those growling guitars could be compared to Guided by Voices, those harmonies and hooks may be lifted from the Foo Fighters, their po-faced lack of pretension either recalls the Replacements or, if you're less charitable, Better Than Ezra -- without sounding like anyone in particular.
In the aftermath of this Athens, Ga., trio's debut, 2005's Give 'Em All a Big Fat Lip, Rolling Stone declared the Whigs "the best unsigned band in America." That confidence boost fuels Mission Control. A noisy fun house bouncing around Nirvana, the Replacements, and Guided by Voices, the Whigs' sophomore slam is just as likely to push you up against a wall as whisper pillow talk. Frontman Parker Gispert yowls distinctively, and drummer Julian Dorio splashes his beats with rare ferocity.