Review Summary: Just a fading shadow left from the bigger model of excellence.
Listening to The Whigs is kind of like watching a B-grade movie on Lifetime: what's experienced is based on an idea that’s all well and good, but it’s already been done much better by bigger members of the same family. I guess you could just attribute the ho-hum product to Parker Gispert’s sporty, run-of-the-mill vocals that find safety and security in a place between the likes of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and a cleaned-up version of Billy Corgan, or maybe even to the distortion-flooded modern rock The Whigs play that masquerades under the guise of what is meant to be a takeoff of competent 90s indie rock – ala Pavement. The Whigs really sound just as washed out and unmoving as that pile of used, post-What’s The Story Morning Glory
Oasis albums hiding under the weight of several Nevermind
records in your local FYE store: when it really comes down to it, the music to be found therein is just a fading shadow left from the bigger model of excellence.
Enter third effort In The Dark
. This year’s new offering was recorded without Hank Sullivant, the band’s first bassist and, up until 2006, co-songwriter that had a hand in writing nearly all of The Whigs’ pre-In The Dark
material. His loss is certainly felt, as a large portion of this album buzzes and fizzles instead of rocks and drives – and I’m not just talking about the shoegaze-drenched guitars either. ‘I wanted more, and I can’t ignore
,’ admits Parker Gispert with his best Grohl impression - funny, I was actually thinking the same thing - over the buzzed, melodic background of second track “Black Lotus”, a song that whizzes by and fails to leave any remarkable impression. That's really the main problem with this album, actually, which happens to be much more bothersome here than on The Whigs’ previous offerings: everything is unremarkable and dry, buzzing to the end with its play on bigger bands like Kings Of Leon or Guided By Voices, while failing to keep anybody in for the long ride.
“So Lonely” throws the ‘I’m so lonely when you’re around
’ ploy – as if we haven’t already heard that before, eh? - and the one-track bass tones and staccato melody of “I Don’t Care About the One I Love” just sound redundant musically, as well as lyrically: ‘I don’t even care about the one I love, and there’s a black heart inside of me
” – isn’t that already implied with the first clause? For all the areas that In The Dark
fizzes awkwardly into mediocrity, a few of the songs would, however, actually fit right at home on the US modern rock radio. “I Am For Real” is such a track that might land an impression on the Stars and Stripes, sporting The Whigs' best set of lyrics on In The Dark
, as well as the best chorus: '…I don’t need to walk in your backyard / just to let you know where I stand
'; and, likewise, the title track following immediately after has all the right moves in all the right places to fully distinguish itself and stand out above the rest of the songs on the album: a stumper of a verse asserts Parker and the band before an anthemic chorus sets in, effectively carrying this track onward to glory. Too bad these two highlights come after eight tracks of drivel, though.
Naked we are born, and naked we shall return, or at least that seems to be the case with The Whig’s In The Dark
, closing on the aptly titled “Naked”. It’s a bit ironic, though, as this track is the one place on this album where the band break through the pseudo-faux, modern rock-indie disguise and actually create something with some real
substance. Beginning with ambiance, Parker enters over a steady drum thumping and electric guitar plucking with the whispered suave and finesse of many-a-respectable indie rock vocalist. He proclaims in the sped-up, heavier chorus sections, ‘I don’t think I want my clothes back anymore
’; and that, actually, right there
, is the cure to the problem that The Whigs seem to have run into on new album In The Dark
: just leave the disguises out next time and go with the flow, man, even if it means that you’re running around naked while doing so. At least things will start to get exciting then, right?