Here’s the problem with the Whigs. They rode their wave of hype and attention for so long with nothing really to show for it, and so when they do finally turn out a debut album, it seems more like a sophomore slump. The hoarse, off-key vocals that Parker Gispert tosses off were charming at Tasty World, but sound pretty abrasive on the record, and the live illusion of rocking turns out really to be just some power chords and one phrase repeated over and over in a chorus. (Or maybe it’s just more fun to hear the Whigs when you’re drunk.)
With all the band’s effort put in to finally recording and releasing something – anything! – Give ‘Em All a Big Fat Lip has some pretty disappointing moments. But after a few listens most of the songs began to be, well, likeable. The album is basically the setlist to any live Whigs show, give or take a song. Maybe the trio got so used to those melodies after three years of performing them that there was no way to make the whole thing sound a bit more challenging and fun and less formulaic. The songs (especially “Technology” and “Violet Furs”) and all their perky hooks and easy-to-learn choruses sound primed for Top 40 radio play, but Lord knows they’ll need a grittier, indie-er sound if they’re ever going to play on “The O.C.”
The most promising is the album’s last track “All of My Banks.” With an ominous trombone and dark guitar licks, it’s such a treat and so foreboding that it almost doesn’t fit in with the rest of the sunflowery, matching-haircut pop rock. The keyboard intro that is nearly identical to “Half the World Away” is the only thing that resembles the rest of the album. Maybe, hopefully, that song can be the departure point for the Whigs’ next direction.
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