The Whigs, a trio hailing from the same hometown as R.E.M. (Athens, Georgia), have made lots of noise over the past couple of years, and not just from its loud guitars and thunderous skins.
Where their debut album Give ‘Em All A Big Fat Lip (2005) introduced them to the world as a promising young band that Rolling Stone named one of the “Ten Artists to Watch” in 2006, their sophomore release Mission Control in early 2008 got them bigger audiences, complimentary comparisons to The Replacements/Paul Westerberg, festival gigs (Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo) and opening slots for the likes of The Killers, Drive-By Truckers and Kings of Leon over the ensuing couple of years.
So of course, it garnered (mostly) praise from mainstream critics and fans alike, and even earned them appearances on late night shows including The Late Show with David Letterman. Songs like “Right Hand On My Heart” and the straight ahead hard-charging “Like A Vibration” highlighted this era.
With the release this week of third full-length In The Dark (ATO Records), The Whigs are poised once again to take their sound and popularity to a new level.
“Hundred/Million,” the first of 11 tracks, gets bodies moving with its mid-tempo groove and dirty, distorted bass lines. “Black Lotus” starts and ends well with its jittery guitar parts and includes mildly catchy chorus vocals by singer/guitarist Parker Gispert, but in between suffers from unmemorable chord changes.
First single “Kill Me Carolyne” is where The Whigs take their sound to arena rock level, with its Kings of Leon-like drive. It’s not quite as infectious as KofL’s “Sex On Fire,” but is a sturdy second cousin and definite album highlight.
A funky bass line propels “I Am For Real,” while the love-seeking rocker “Someone’s Daughter” is one of a few cuts – one other being the excellent “So Lonely” – that bring back the band’s trademark thick, loud guitars and amplifiers. For these guys, the higher the amp’s gain is turned up, the better.
The momentum gets slowed down with “Dying,” but picks back up quickly with “I Don’t Even Care About The One I Love,” whose warm, light and bright strings contrast with cold lyrics.
What comes next is the best song and sure-to-be future single from In The Dark, the sunny California guitar pop of “Automatic.” The depth of its background vocals is what gives this late-album highlight its radiance and one you’ll have on repeat on your iPod, as will the title track, which spouts the most hum-able chorus you’ll come across here.
With the exception of just a few songs, In The Dark is yet another step up for this Georgia power trio. The sound is bigger, the hooks are sharper, and some are even damn near anthemic. With The Whigs touring yet again this year, this band will continue to be a band to watch. And a fine third record to hit the road with should no doubt help its cause.
The Whigs will be performing at the annual SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas later this week, will return to The Late Show with David Letterman on April 1 and make its debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on April 7.
For a free download of lead single “Kill Me Carolyne,” go to the official website of The Whigs.