The Whigs gave it “the old college try” on its debut, Give ‘Em All a Big Fat Lip, with the Athens, Georgia trio recroding the DIY album in an empty fraternity house. Mission Control was a bit of post-graduate brilliance, marked by polished songs with a heart of punk. By comparison, In the Dark is The Whigs’ announcement that they have honed their talents and are ready to show them to the world.
Most tracks for In the Dark were spawned in the band’s practice space, where bassist Julian Dorio and drummer Tim Deaux molded jams into compositions that were ready for guitarist and vocalist Parker Gispert’s sonic touches. This approach – a shift from previous songwriting for The Whigs – resonates across the album, the muscular rhythmic core touched by Gispert’s rasp and sparse guitar work. “Black Lotus” echoes with palpitating base and skittering riffs, much like “Kill Me Carolyne” which is hand-held by pulsating rhythm, and “Someone’s Daughter” which stomps, kicks, and explodes with brawny bombast. That’s not so say that the band isn’t a whole, and the sound isn’t tight. Gispert’s playing is not reserved, but it is well-played and unassuming, the skin over a dark and rumbling soul.
Maturity is suiting The Whigs well, although it is surely responsible for some of In the Dark’s awkward moments (the overproduced “Hundred/Million” and the vacant “Dying”). But the embrace of evolution and a disregard to formulas or trends has guided The Whigs through their growth, and by middle age, the band will truly be something to behold.
In the Dark is out now on ATO Records.