Article by: Sean Maloney | Photos courtesy of The Whigs | Posted: 09/19/2012
Before we progress, let's get one thing straight: The Whigs’ new album Enjoy The Company is phenomenal. It's the kind of rock ‘n’ roll album that feels like it's always been in your record collection, even though it's brand new. It's not overtly retro, not excessively modern, and there's no fancy studio-tricks or shiny gimmicks -- just warm enveloping tones and meat-and-potatoes songwriting; a more apt title might have been Enjoy The Earworms. But if you've been following The Whigs over the last decade or so, you know that. This is a band that has always stood outside the prevailing trends in popular music, and has set its own course without caving to the demands of the market.
“I think we've been lucky like that,” says Whigs vocalist/guitarist Parker Gispert. “We've never really had a shortage of ideas, never had a shortage of material, never felt tons of pressure to deliver a certain thing.”
Gispert is one of the most affable and unassuming rockers you could ever hope to meet. In fact, Brite Revolution has been running into Gispert and crew everywhere over the last few months – at bars, at shows, just about everywhere – and only after we got the new record in our in-box did we realize that the reason these guys seemed so familiar was that we had been listening to these guys for years. Yeah, they look like a band – everybody in Nashville does these days – and sure they hang out with cool bands – if we're not mistaken it was Hardy Morris from Dead Confederate and Diamond Rugs that introduced us – but the topic of which band they were was never breached.
It just didn't come up, which is really, really endearing in a town where everybody wants you to listen to their band and go to their show. And it's this easy-going, nonchalant attitude that might be The Whigs’ greatest strength: Over the course of four albums, The Whigs have never cut a track that seems forced, pretentious, or like it's trying to fit in with anything or anyone else. In an age when every band is trying to out-hipster the next, The Whigs lay back and play it cool. Not hip, but cool. Cool in a way that doesn't date them or peg them to whatever micro-genre-of-the-moment bullshit the cultural cognoscenti are dry humping to death.
“I felt that way about the first one [2006's Give Them All A Big Fat Lip], like what you were saying -- that it wasn't really consistent with the landscape at the time,” says Gispert. “Maybe I'm wrong, and I guess I'll see but, you know, it's not a garage-y sounding record, this one. It's not 'produced' but John [Angello] has been making records for thirty-five years so it's technically proficient sonic recording. Lots of the rock stuff is more lo-fi or does have more of a garage aesthetic, so it'll interesting to see if this one sounds more in-step or if it sounds equally sort of oddball.
It takes a significant amount of chutzpah to give the industry and its trend-mongering the ol’ brush off, but Enjoy The Company does just that. From the eight-minute opener “Staying Alive” – which, really, who has the cojones to start their album with its longest song – to the fragile-yet-anthemic acoustic “Thank You” – which is immediately followed by the bouncy, explosive “Rock And Roll Forever” – The Whigs have assembled one of the year's most listenable collections. It's an album of elegant simplicity -- an album that goes down smoother than sweet tea on a Southern summer afternoon, but has all the muscle and verve that one wants and one needs in a rock record.
Whether it's the steel-guitar-and-fuzz romanticism of “Tiny Treasures,” or the classic Southern college rock sound of “Waiting” – we are talking about a band that shares DNA and geo-locational origins with folks like R.E.M., Drivin' N Cryin' and The Drive-By Truckers – Enjoy The Company is a plain-stated masterstroke in a career that has eschewed the artifice and obnoxiousness that has become part and parcel of contemporary indie rock. Be it the buttery bass guitar on “Couple of Kids” or the sinewy groove of “Summer Heat,” The Whigs create their own parallel universe where rock ‘n’ roll still reigns supreme, where alternative radio hasn't gone extinct and the people still relish soul over style.
“I think we always just make what we want to make at that particular time.”
The Whigs - "Right Hand On My Heart"