Editors' pick

The Whigs, Kuroma

Rock
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Editorial Review

'Enjoy the Company'
By Chris Kompanek
Friday, November 2, 2012

The Whigs have walked a fine line between pop and grunge since their 2005 debut, “Give ’Em All a Big Fat Lip,” which the band originally recorded in an empty frat house and independently released while the members were still in college. Shortly after it was rereleased by ATO, the Athens, Ga., trio went through a lineup shift -- bassist Hank Sullivant went solo under the moniker Kuroma and was replaced by Tim Deaux -- but frontman Parker Gispert has remained at the helm of the band’s sound, layering well-defined melodies on top of fuzzy chords.

On the Whigs’ latest album, “Enjoy the Company,” Gispert turns down the distortion in favor of a crisper sound that puts his solid pipes in the forefront. The addition of horns all but obliterates the grunge core of the band’s sound. It’s a jarring shift to a radio-friendly sensibility that’s in danger of choosing slickness over substance. “You can celebrate my art / You can shoot me in the heart,” Gispert croons on “Rock n Roll Forever,” but the song is set to a catchy bass-driven riff. And opening track “Staying Alive” is an eight-plus-minute epic that climaxes with a lengthy jam that asserts the band hasn’t become Maroon 5 yet.

In a recent interview, Gispert spoke of the band being at the beginning of a long career. But the question remains: Will the Whigs be seduced by the gloss of the mainstream or follow in the murkier but more substantive footsteps of New West Records label mates Steve Earle and Tom Morello?