This week The Whigs release their fifth studio album Modern Creation. The Whigs have been together as a band more than a decade during which they’ve released four critically lauded studio albums and toured constantly as either headliners or openers for the likes of the Drive-By Truckers, Kings of Leon, and MGMT.
My first encounter with them was in 2010 while they were on tour with Kings Of Leon and had just released their third record In The Dark. Since I’m not really a fan of Kings Of Leon, I was happy that The Whigs decided to play a few off headline shows in small local clubs. I was captivated by their live energy which was put back into my mind when I gave Moden Creation its first spin. The album carries that same raw energy I was so Impressed with at their show. Apparently, that is just what the band had in mind while making this record because they recorded it live for which they even set up a small stage in their studio and captured most of the songs in first or second takes.
Says Parker Gispert (guitar/vocals): “We wanted to record quickly, and we wanted to record live. That meant we weren’t going to write a bunch of songs that relied on a horn line or any outside instrumentation. That guided the composition of the songs and informed how we approached recording them.” The album was produced by Jim Scott who has helmed albums by Tom Petty, Wilco, and Matthew Sweet, among many others.
The album kicks off with buzzing guitars and pounding drum beats. From the first notes of opening track You Should Be Able To Feel It – quite a telling name by the way – up until the beautiful midtempo closer The Difference Between One And Two it feels like the band is playing live in your garage or living room.
Asking Strangers For Directions carries on the pummeling drums and steady beat and by the time you get to The Particular you get the full garage feeling with the bands’ repeated “Hey!” shouts that echo above the distorted guitars. The song really benefits from the fact that it was recorded in one go rather than editing the shouts in at a later stage.
Hit Me may be the most radio-friendly song on the entire record which is probably why it was chosen as a first single. It is also closest to The Whigs’ previous records. It has a certain underlying funk beat as Parker Gispert croons “You play my game – for what?”.
The Whigs draw from a varied pool of influences ranging from 70s and 80s hard rock and underground to americana and folk. On the midtempo title track and the distortion-tinged She Is Everywhere the vocals – and even some of the lyrics – reminded me a little of Neil Young. Even more so penultimate track I Couldn’t Lie. Friday Night is a straightforward rock song that invokes images of speeding down a highway on a motorcycle or getting into a drunk argument while Too Much In The Morning tells of the morning after with its mellow verse and break-out chorus.
Album closer The Difference Between One And Two is the only ballad on this album and it’s simply beautiful because it is so simple and straight forward “What’s the differnce between one and two? The answer is you“. It is exactly this unpretentiousness that makes this entire record so enjoyable. The Whigs spare the pathos of Kings Of Leon and tragic emotiveness of Augustines. This is a band that has come a long way and made a record that shows what they do best, play live. It is the perfect fit for anyone who loves Tom Petty, Neil Young or Johnny Cash but also those who ever dabbled in garage and underground rock. Modern Creation is anything but modern but it’s not old-fashioned either. It’s an amazing record that unpretentiously shows off a band’s love for their roots and it may be their best to date.