The Whitsundays: The Whitsundays

The debut from this Canadian band looks affectionately backwards.

The Whitsundays

The Whitsundays

Label: Friendly Fire
US Release Date: 2008-01-22
UK Release Date: Available as import

The Whitsundays, a young band from Alberta, Canada, make no qualms about their anachronistic Anglophilia. Though the main force behind the band, Paul Arnusch, has a history of performing with post-rock, post-punk bands like Faunts and the Floor, from the start it’s obvious his new project’s primarily interested in creating timeless pop music.

And this '60s AM radio pop can be utterly charming. If the Whitsundays never quite reach the level of Camera Obscura, it’s difficult to post blame. That’s a high bar to match. It’s enough to say that these songs are confident and not in any way pretentious. The band’s not setting out to change the face of popular music - it’s just giving an old form a bit of a brush-up, and betting that some people still find it appealing. It’s a safe bet, because the backbone of blues never really left rock ‘n’ roll. YThere’s gotta be an unelucidated physiological mechanism linking melody with those mysterious pleasure centers in our brain.

It’s no surprise the group operates within strictly conventional song structures and with entirely familiar chord progressions. “Already Gone”, the lead single, may be the most successful on the album, with the basslines of the Zombies but an added dimension. Arnusch’s voice has a floating quality and a more modern sensibility than we’re used to hearing from this kind of music. Of course the Beatles are heroes of the Zombies, we knew that from the outset; Lennon or McCartney’s influence comes in waves, sometimes stronger, sometimes more distant. On “Sorry James”, it’s a tidal wave: even Arnusch’s pronunciation of consonants mirrors that English ping. But referential as it may be, the songwriting is assured. Quick changes of texture and feeling are pulled off throughout the record with ease, and though the album’s short at under 35 minutes, it’s also continually interesting.

But when the band attempts a little experimentation or tries to mess with the formula, things begin to fall apart. The slow arpeggios at the opening of “Bring it on Home”, ripped straight from early Radiohead, give way to an ill-advised middle section in which the low octave doubling of the vocal line rings a tad hokey. The marriage of earnest, smooth tenor vocals and the strong acoustic bass sound likewise doesn’t suit “Antisocial”, which is really trying to be a late-'90s power pop tune. And “The Ways of the Sweet Talking Boys” wallows in the '60s sound without a viable payoff. The jazzy synth solo may be intended ironically, but there’s no real way to tell, and it comes across without any real conviction. It’s almost as if the band has a conception of the way this retro pop should sound, and has gone about the task of matching that as accurately as possible without much real feeling. Compare that to a group like the Magic Numbers, whose sweet ballads always ring true, and you’ll hear a very discernible difference.

So the Whitsundays are best in their sweetest, most nostalgic mood. The group, in its current incarnation, won’t ever bowl you over with a vital new take on old pop forms. They seem content with honest, solid songwriting and a few catchy hooks. If that’s enough for you, you’ll be more than satisfied with The Whitsundays.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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

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