Let me state this just as simply as I can, or as simple as the ballpark frank hotdog album cover, with a puddle of mustard on the side, looks. The Whig’s Enjoy the Company is a very good (if not an excellent) record! It’s contemporary, but at the same time, pays tribute to former shining moments in our Rock History. The Whigs will appear at ACL this year on Saturday afternoon; in my play book, this is the act you need to catch and fast, so don’t forget. A wonderful formula, seasoned garage rockers with something new under their hat of magical musical tricks!
This is the first title of theirs I’ve heard, but I’m a big fan now, and will collect The Whigs earlier albums in short order. A three piece band is hard to pull off, and this is what has intrigued me the most about this band. The Jimi Hendrix Experience did it perfectly and who could forget Grand Funk Railroad in this regard, who are role models for aspiring three piece aficionados, such as myself and my colleagues in the memorable Dallas three-piece rock unit, The Shitty Beatles (who made the amazing scene of Deep Ellum ala 1985). Back to business!
Staying Alive (track 1) doesn’t particularly get your attention until six minutes into it, when the muscle of grey fog and mesmerizing white noise petrifies you into a peculiar Velvet morning moment; you see the highway clearly now, while the last two minutes take you down to the end of the track (even though the record is just beginning). A big car crash in the beginning gets you off to a great start, you’re in the groove of Enjoy the Company now, nothing will shatter your concentration, the trip is too good to stop!
Gospel (track 2) is about self-containment, self-sufficiency, or (you might say) an attitude of Parker Gispert that he’s perfectly happy living in his own skin, thank you (Paul Simon’s I Am A Rock philosophy of life). The turn of lyric on the back end of the chorus says as much, although disguised in poetry: “Take a ride on a wave that is in your brain and find in your mind you’ve got everything you could want.”
Tiny Treasures (track 3) is the best cut on the record, or maybe I should say, it’s my favorite. Very full sound with the guitars stacked, and a steel guitar giving you just the right dash of countrified pop jangle angst. I should clip in here, the producer, John Agnello knew (knows) what he was doing in the studio. I like the way the drums were miked here and the mix is beautiful. You might want to pull out some early REM albums for comparison (both bands fare from Athens, Ga.).
But mostly, it’s a well written song, because the verse and chorus are like yin and wang, where the verses are faster and harsher and more rockin’ in tone, while the chorus is the dreamy, idyllic part. “We’re out in Hollywood, dancing in the stars. I’ll walk you to the moon, arm and arm on mars.” The second verse is something about morphing to experience and corruption, from innocence and purity. The enhanced dynamics let you live this metamorphosis!
Waiting (track 6) starts off as a crisp slice of traditional pumped up rock ‘n’ roll, but transforms into something much bigger, with complex structures reminiscent of Pete Townshend’s Quadrophenia (see The Rock). Another apt comparison, in terms of the majestic sound Parker Gispert gets with his guitar, can be made with Scottish new wave band, Big Country’s Stuart Adamson, who unfortunately hung himself in a Honolulu hotel room in 2001, but when in his prime was able to get a huge sound with his guitar that resembled bagpipes, by using a MXR Pitch transposer 129 guitar effect.
The lyrics are about waiting around, trying to put together a love that perhaps has come unraveled. I’m not so clear here what’s behind this, but it looks like a plea on the part of the narrator to reunite with his former girlfriend, but it’s getting difficult. This is nicely coupled with the pitched sweeps of guitar effects and conceptual architectonic chord patterns, that make Waiting more than a two chord Ramones stomper. The combination of simplicity and complexity is fresh, if not satisfying; the Jesus and Mary Chain mingles with The Who (in their Rock Opera period) elevating one song.
Rock And Roll Forever (track 9) has received the most praise by music critics for the tribute it pays to other songs that have done the same, reinforcing a nearly cult-like, religious devotion to these simple forms which seem to ‘ave mystically emerged out of nowhere in the mid-1950s. Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven states the tenets of creed most succinctly, in my opinion. The Whigs are just continuing a tradition that could use a recharging; the crunching stacked guitars do just that, with a bonus of that Big Country guitar effect again.
The last song, Ours (track 10) uses what’s looking like a signature pattern of Parker Gispert’s, of softer passages resting comfortably side by side with harder passages, that grant no quarter for traitors. The second half morphs to this aforementioned Pete Townshend intellectualizing, and extending the musical structures beyond the initial motifs introduced in the song. It becomes overture-like (Tommy comes to mind), or to put it in a blunter way, an excuse to jam-out beyond the drawing lines of composition with ample amplified heat. This is very effective!
A cello, played by Heather McIntosh, appears in the mix early on (in the softer section), and is a pleasant touch, contrasting sharply with the rock vamp that progresses afterwards in short order. I was reminded of the sound achieved by Elton John on Tumbleweed Connection, where the use of strings in Rock can be quite radical. Switching Ours to the last track was a smart move, as was placing Staying Alive in the first slot. Ours is The Whigs’ Simon and Garfunkel’s Song For the Asking, which got the final slot in that last record for the twosome together, Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Enjoy The Company has some great songs on it and what I like most is the way it is recorded, with John Agnello as it’s producer. I had to record several of the songs on my iPhone voice memo application, so I could go over to the park to do my daily walking. I knew how great the recording was when hearing the stereo imaging on my tiny iPhone speakers. The guitars, which jangle, crack, and pop are crisp as cornflakes in the morning and sounded live to me, as I chug-a-lug on the track path. White noise ala Velvets (track 1) will go down in the books! Startles me every time.