CD Review of X Marks Destination by The Whip
The Whip: X Marks Destination
Recommended if you like
New Order, Midnight Juggernauts, Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Label
Razor & Tie
The Whip:
X Marks Destination

Reviewed by James B. Eldred

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early a year after dropping in the UK, the debut album by electro-rockers the Whip has finally arrived in the States. What the hell took so long? Did the label think that America wouldn't be interested in intelligent, well-written, dance-infused rock songs?

Oh, wait – the most popular rock bands in America right now are Switchfoot, Nickelback and Hinder. Never mind.

Okay, so maybe the band’s label had a reason to be hesitant in the release of X Marks Destination, but at least they came around, because this is one of the best New Order-inspired rock albums to come out all year. Usually such a statement wouldn't have to be stipulated with "one of," but between this record and Handsome Furs' Face Control, 2009 is shaping up to be an awesome year for New Order pastiche. And why not? Just a few years ago, bands like Editors, She Wants Revenge and Interpol were blatantly ripping off Joy Division and getting away with mass critical acclaim (well, Editors and Interpol were, anyway), so it only makes sense that New Order would be next on the list. However, if bands start moving on to Electronic and the Other Two, it’s safe to say that things have gone too far.

The Whip

While Handsome Furs have mastered the art of early ‘80s Movement / Power, Corruption & Lies New Order, the Whip have gone for the later, Brotherhood / Technique sound, less post-punk and arty and more electronic and dancey. And they've done it masterfully, sometimes coming close to matching their obvious influences. Standout tracks "Sirens" and "Frustration" take everything great about ‘80s dance-rock and mine it for pure gold. The harmonizing vocals, upbeat synth riffs and sickeningly danceable beats on both tunes hearken back to the days of "Shellshock" and "Bizarre Love Triangle" so well that someone should sneak the tunes into John Hughes’ iPod in hopes that they would inspire him to direct another "Sixteen Candles."

Directly cribbing New Order can only take a band so far, though, and thankfully the Whip also bring some original ideas to the table in order to avoid being called complete rip-off artists. The sweet-as-all-get-out instrumental "Divebomb" is a prime cut of dance-punk electro, mixing hard synths with distorted samples and chiptune bleeps that any fan of Crystal Castles should fall in love with. Songs like "Trash" also amp up the rock influences as well, showing that next to New Order, the Whip's biggest influence is probably the Stone Roses, which makes sense since they're also from Manchester.

It's not all Madchester-inspired sunshine and ‘80s new-wave happiness, however. The Whip still aren't entirely consistent, and occasionally they try too hard to cater to the masses, like with the annoying new-rave inspired "Muzzle #1," or "Blackout," which is a repetitive electronic number fit for the next overrated Simian Mobile Disco album.

The album ends on a low note, but that's not entirely the fault of the Whip. Since this album came out so long ago in the rest of the world, the American version has been expanded with four remixes that weren't on the original release. So instead of the album coming to the close with the dirtily titled but surprisingly beautiful "Dubsex," we are instead treated to horrible remixes of "Blackout" and "Muzzle #1" and slightly better but still utterly useless remixes of "Sister Sam" and "Trash." Making this even more annoying is that instead of these remixes, the British version got a live DVD, which would have been far preferable.

Flawed presentation aside, this is a hell of a debut that should give the hipsters something to dance to until the next album on DFA comes out.

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