Simply the Best Band You’ve Never Heard Of…
Out of the indie punk bomb shelters of Birmingham, Alabama, came the inevitable union of local heroes, the Ohms and Verbena, purveyors of hero-status records that just about every Southeastern kid worth his snot in rock ‘n’ roll would give a nod to as an influence, in one way or another. Originally coined as Wes McDonald and the Fizz, the quartet featured Verbena drummer (and later guitarist) Lester Nuby III, the formidable backline of Keelan Parrish on the low end and Jake Waitzman behind the drum kit, and Wes McDonald aka Terry Ohms holding court lyrically and on second guitar. They were simply too well-versed to not be tagged as a cohesive unit; a dream of a vulture eating a whale by Nuby birthed a new creative vehicle, and a band was formed.
Vulture Whale’s 2007 freshmen self-titled effort, released on McDonald’s Ol’ Elegante stamp, was a nearly perfect Southern indie rock record, tapping the same vein as remarkable debut efforts by McDonald’s Ohms and Nuby’s Verbena in 2000 and 1997, respectively. McDonald’s vocal stylings straddle the gap between the Jam’s Paul Weller and Philadelphia’s G.Love, a slight nod to Mick Jagger, and a shit ton of Wes McDonald. Nuby and McDonald trade guitar work and form an impervious front with Parrish and Waitzman, each upholding their end like a jack stud supporting a header. Each member brings their own paint to the proverbial canvas, the ship maniacally steered by McDonald and his musical-genius-come-barstool-comedian take on songwriting — equally drenched in Parliament Funkadelic, Marc Bolan, and the Ramones.
That’s been the ‘plam’ from day one: take it everywhere and nowhere at the same time. They’re better than steroids were for baseball and OJ was for Ford Broncos, beautifully exotic yet weaving the basket between perfect indie pop and obtuse punk funk. Ever entertaining and genre bending, Vulture Whale is a cornucopia of styles and permutations draped in the critically acclaimed shroud of indie rock and its rags.
2016 sees the band’s fifth release, Aluminium, and first on the newly revamped Cornelius Chapel Records imprint headed up by Dexateens frontman Elliott McPherson. Aluminium is locked and loaded with brain-clinging heady rock numbers, dramatic buildups, and genuine American rock of the Southern persuasion with ample crunch and face-melting riffs piled up with false Euro bravado — crafty rock-n-roll proving yet again why Birmingham is forever a spot on the indie rock map, as deep in talent as it is cultural history. Aluminium’s release finds it just in time for that early Alabama spring and yet another to add to their near six pack of critically definitive indie rock offerings.
Alabama is a hotbed of musical talent and always has been, as far back as when Mick, Keith, and the gang piled into Muscle Shoals Sound with the Swampers and the Wrecking Crew set up literally paces away at Fame Studios, each making records that still permeate the American musical landscape. There’s a definitive resurgence on the rise. Hold on to your cleats — the future is now, and it’s pissed.