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

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image