March 6, 2008

Test Spin: The Whigs

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When The Whigs came to Cornell last spring to open for OK Go and the All-American Rejects, it wasn’t clear who those kids in hoodies on the stage were until Parker Gispert got up to the mic and started growling out “Violet Furs,” a song that completely overshadowed anything the Rejects would spit at the students later that night. The Whigs’ musical scruff reflected their physical scruff, and at the time Gispert hadn’t even been out of the University of Georgia for two years, making it all the more impressive. The band was DIY without being all snooty about it, taking that mentality to the level of loading their own equipment and not asking Cornell students for help at all.

This new album of theirs, Mission Control, definitely notes a change in The Whigs. When Gispert went on NPR’s Weekend Edition last Saturday with drummer Julian Dorio, he described the title track as “space blues.” Indeed, its roots lie in the Delta, but the atmospherics whoosh you through Space Mountain while you’re listening. It seems a huge turnaround for the trio to add copious sonics to their stripped down rock, and with the exception of the opening track, “Like a Vibration,” it doesn’t really work that well. The production of the album sands away some of the endearing scruff, even making Gisperts sandpaper-y vocals smooth and breathy on songs like “Sleep Sunshine.” Download “Like a Vibration,” but the rest of Mission Control seems to have lost sight of The Whigs’ true garage rock mission.