Mission Control

Let me talk to you for a second about The Whigs. They’re from Athens, Georgia. There are three Whigs, and no Tories to oppose them (please, if you’re in a band called The Tories, please contact me here immediately. Best battle of the bands ever will follow shortly after): Parker Gispert handles guitars and singin’, Tim Deaux does the bass (according to their crapspace page), and Julian Dorio beats the shit out of the drums. That’s it. Three Whigs. Still, as of the end of this paragraph, they outnumber the Tories (I realize there’s a Tory party in the UK, but we’re talking about the good ol’ US of A here)

But for serious – if you like to plug your guitar in, turn the amp up real loud, and bash out notes to a pounding drum beat, it helps to have a certain understanding that 1) what you’re doing requires little or no pretension and 2) you are not the first person to ever do what you are doing. Where this understanding is in place, you get albums like Oasis made when they started out – albums that make other people want to play their guitars really loud. Where this understanding is lacking, you get albums like Oasis makes now. And nobody wants that. The Whigs possess this understanding in abundance and it has helped them to pick up the ball that the Foo Fighters dropped some time after recording The Colour and the Shape.

Gispert even sounds a little like a younger Dave Grohl, the key difference being that Parker Gispert has a cooler name (seriously – sounds like the secret identity of a superhero) and isn’t running around paying tribute to every band your alcoholic stepdad loves (in fairness to the Fighters of Foo, however, paying tribute to The Who is perfectly acceptable – they really rocked back in the day and if you doubt that, well, you must have suffered some sort of head trauma recently). Gispert also grasps a sense of dynamics that is a little more involved than Mr. Grohl’s soft verse/loud chorus shtick that is getting older by the minute. Mission Control is a meat-and-potatoes rock record with pounding drums (check out “Need You Need You” for a prime example of this – Dorio plays drums like he’s in war, the way rock drummers should play) and loud guitars galore.  Which means that, yeah, you’ve heard this stuff before. But you can’t dismiss Mission Control on those grounds – The Whigs are playing with a combination of earnestness and unassumingness that is nigh irrefutable.

The first time I heard of The Whigs, I was at this barbecue, ’round Memorial Day weekend. This dude got wicked drunk and started talking about everything “one musician to another” as if that meant that I had to agree with him because, hey, we both play music (I heard this same dude sing later that night and I dunno if it was the booze or not, but he fucking sucked). He kept talking about MGMT (he said that Oracular Spectacular is the album of the year; he’s wrong) and The Whigs. He said he thought the Whigs sounded like Nirvana. They sound like Nirvana the way Tom Waits sounds like Hillary Duff. Point is, this guy’s incessant bullshitting about bands I should be listening to chased me away from The Whigs for a long time. They don’t sound like Nirvana, but they are a good fucking band.

The album opens with “Like A Vibration,” which establishes the tone for Mission Control: loud, short, and sweet. Gispert growls, “My reputation/ is hanging around my neck/ it’s hanging out in bars,” but doesn’t sweat it much. “Vibration” is followed by the awesome, funky “Production City,” which sounds like a cross between Franz Ferdinand and The J. Geils Band if The J. Geils Band didn’t suck monkey balls. “Production City” is among the standout tracks on Mission Control, probably second best behind “I’ve Got Ideas,” which is a melodic, horn-infused pop gem where Gispert is asking for and (apparently) receiving forgiveness because he “tangled up my tongue/ beneath a white lie”. To pick up the Grohl comparison one last time, the head Foo Fighter could benefit from studying Gispert’s grasp of pop (which is not a dirty word – like R&B, pop has been co-opted by charlatans out to make big money. If you want to know what pop should sound like, go back and listen to The Beatles and then, for a contemporary reference, check out The Whigs and The New Pornographers. “The Slow Descent into Alcoholism” by the New Pornos is as perfect a slice of pop music as we’re apt to get for a long while). In short, Mission Control is a good album by three guys who clearly enjoy what they do. It’s the kind of album I always think will grab a band a wider audience and some dubious accolades from the more mainstream music press – it almost never works that way, but don’t let it stop you. It’s been a good year for good rock music, and The Whigs are part of the reason why.

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