For those of us music consumers who still value the experience of a full album, it’s been an increasingly hard task to consistently find high quality ones that are truly worth the investment of our hard-earned money. And just about all recording artists and bands strive to make at least one truly great, masterpiece of an album in their career that everyone loves. For Georgia garage and post-punk group The Whigs, they achieved that goal with second album Mission Control in 2008. Start to finish, it was a loud, rock solid record that resonated with fans and music critics alike.
But the band’s momentum slowed down a bit with their third album, 2010′s In the Dark, which wasn’t as well received by critics. Still, The Whigs continued to increase their public profile, sharing bills with an impressive roster of acclaimed acts such as Kings of Leon, the Hold Steady and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. They even went on a U.S.O. tour in May of that year.
With their recently released fourth album, Enjoy the Company, the band has taken yet another step back songwriting-wise. At this point, The Whigs have an identity crisis to solve as well. While it was refreshing to see the three-piece come out with one terrific straight-ahead rock and roll track after another—including the butt-kickin’ rocker “Like a Vibration”—on Mission Control, they sounded too much like other familiar bands on In the Dark, and the same is true for this new release.
Whether it’s sounding like an uninteresting imitation of The Who on “Ours” from the new LP or like a knockoff of Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire” on In the Dark track “Kill Me Carolyne” (which I regretfully initially praised, along with the album itself), it seems The Whigs have lost their way. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Parker Gispert just doesn’t have enough of the creative, hook-laden spirit that he had on his band’s breakthrough second album (and to some extent, debut 2005 LP Give ‘Em All a Big Fat Lip).
There are exceptions, of course, starting with the excellent post-punk single “Waiting” (which is reminiscent of The Replacements), and the country-tinged “Tiny Treasures.” But there’s not much enthusiasm or imagination behind many other tracks, including the moderately loud track “Rock and Roll Forever,” which sees the band nearly repeating themselves, as the chords sound a lot like the ones used to power “Right Hand on My Heart” from Mission Control. Elsewhere, “Couple of Kids” is just a plain but lame and uninspired attempt at a love song, though the next and acoustic track “Thank You” captures such a mood a little better.
In all, Enjoy the Company has some enjoyable tracks to be sure, but it is largely a bump in the road for The Whigs. However, just 10 years and four albums into their career, it’s too early to write them off. Mission Control is still their best album, but there’s plenty of time for Gispert and his band to record a true masterpiece. It just didn’t come close to happening this time around.
Photo credit: Joshua Black Wilkins