The Whigs

Mission Control
ATO Records

"River and ocean, a wave in my heart/We got your money now we'll make a new start." And so the Whigs do.

With Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith) helming the boards for its major-label debut, the Athens-based rock band sounds immense. On opener "Like a Vibration," Parker Gispert's guitar mimics a swarm of bees that just had its hive kicked in. "Right Hand on My Heart" starts out somewhat more subdued only to erupt with magma-like static. In the face of such an onslaught, the drummer might be forgiven for rather pedestrian fills. But Julian Dorio doesn't cede the spotlight, pounding with enough ferocity to give contour and shape to Gispert's six-string racket.

The trouble is, for all its raucous din, Mission Control never really sounds like a proper Whigs album. In fact, at times, it almost plays like a collection of cover songs. "Hot Bed" is eerily similar to Nirvana, right down to Gispert's ragged wail. "I Got Ideas" cops an unmistakably Franz-like stuttering guitar line, so identifiable that even the addition of horns can't distract. The Whigs' blatant tributes are especially odd considering how distinctive the band was at its inception, playing Replacements-styled slacker-punk with a jangly, Southern sensibility. The group's personality occasionally shines through, but, for the most part, these genre exercises mask the Whigs' most compelling idiosyncrasies.

Mission Control may qualify as a new start—just not a very fresh one.

THE WHIGS perform with Tulsa on TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12, at the VARSITY THEATER; 612.604.0222

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