Music

The Whigs: In the Dark

Photo: Jordan Noel

Rock 'n' roll shall survive any number of Live Nation darlings like the Whigs. It is a phenomenally resilient art form.


The Whigs

In the Dark

Label: ATO
US Release Date: 2010-03-16
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

The Whigs’ latest record, In the Dark, finds a fairly hard-nosed Athens, Georgia trio ominously probing the cavernous spaces of an arena rock biosphere. The direction is likely a symptom of touring with their buddies in Kings of Leon, who have attained wild success on the strength of sub-par songwriting and a charismatic lead singer. This is a formula adopted by the Whigs on their new album, on which they also sound like the Killers.

In history, Whigs are members of a long-gone American political party. The name whig originates from the Gaelic whiggamor, meaning cattle or horse drover. Our own century’s Whigs ply their trade deftly, crafting hook-laden songs that are, for the most part, unbelievable. Incidentally, this is a non-hyperbolic usage of the word "unbelievable". Often times, conversational usages begin to corrode the pliability and nuance of our language. I once had an Economics teacher in high school who would always use the word “incidentally". He would spend his planning period at the end of each school day sitting in his car reading the paper and watching the clock. He essentially phoned in his career. Incidentally, the Whigs strike me as a somewhat passionate band. I must speculate that they believe in what they do, even if I cannot personally begin to fathom how that’s possible.

The most telling irritation of In the Dark’s primary flaw is the way in which the Whigs blatantly undermine their own already tenuous credibility with the song “So Lonely”, which yokes a seriously lazy lyrical paraphrase of Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69” (excerpt: “She’s bringing me back to 1960 again / When we met on the front porch of her father’s home / Then she said that she’d never leave me / So I said I’d never let her go”) to a legitimately awesome guitar riff. You could call it “rock on autopilot". It would be a good description. If you asked some space creatures to create an album of banal Earthling arena rock, they might very well create In the Dark using a tentacleful of the simplest mathematical algorithms. I’ve read of the Whigs being compared to the Replacements. It’s why I asked to the review this album. The Whigs do not sound like the Replacements.

“So Lonely” also features a lazy chorus (“Hey! / I don’t want to break down / Why I’m feeling so lonely when you’re around") that’s delivered with so much self-assurance that it’s almost offensive to hear. It’s a common complaint that this reviewer has with an album boasting the technical precision of an atomic clock. In a year during which we mourn the loss of the writer J.D. Salinger, I find it impossible to resist branding the Whigs as first-class phonies. The problem is, you cannot accurately judge a band if you cannot first comprehend its raison d’être.

Nonetheless, I must conclude that the Whigs’ album In the Dark presents listeners with an emotional vacuum. The Whigs are, undoubtedly, a confident trio of musicians. They play their instruments surprisingly well and are, I suspect, passionate about coming across confidently. However, they have alien standards to the lover of emotional sincerity. This does not mean they are a bad band. Their musical tendencies celebrate the current trends (trends which prevail for a reason -- some reason) and their lyrics essentially say nothing. Even still, rock ‘n’ roll shall survive any number of Live Nation darlings like the Whigs. It is a phenomenally resilient art form.

4


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.