CD Review of Mission Control by The Whigs
Recommended if you like
The Pixies, Guided by Voices, Pavement
ATO Records
The Whigs: Mission Control

Reviewed by Red Rocker


omeone must have tossed a Molotov cocktail into the once-vibrant college town of Athens, GA last year. A Mecca of college radio in the ‘80s, Athens delivered REM, Widespread Panic, and the B-52s to a youthful mass unaware of alternative/college music. Athens was the breeding ground of anything new and cool up until the early ‘90s, when Kurt Cobain’s Seattle began herding attention to the Northwest grunge scene. After a renewed underground movement began brewing last year, led by a raucous three-piece called the Whigs, Athens is once again waving for the spotlight.

Frontman Parker Gispert clearly invested years in the catalogs of Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub and Pavement, to name just a few of the garage bands from the early ‘90s who dominated college radio. That’s not to suggest Gispert himself was old enough to even spell “college” in the early ‘90s (he’s only 24 now), but he sure as hell hasn’t been raised on Limp Bizkit or Korn. “Pavement was huge for me,” recalls Gispert. “I remember discovering them and the Replacements and realizing these people wrote pop songs – really well-written, catchy tunes with cool lyrics – and that made pop music appealing for me.”

The Whigs

It might be a stretch to classify Mission Control as pop music, what with its rowdy and unrefined garage element, but those catchy influences remain. It can’t be easy getting this much crash-boom-bam sound out of three guys, especially while lacking a big production budget (they released 2005’s critically-acclaimed Give ‘Em All a Big Fat Lip themselves before Spin and Rolling Stone took note and got ATO Records’ attention). Gispert’s guitar squeaks and squeals on “Production City,” while an INXS-ish beat gallops along in the background. Some of this record makes you want to dance (“I Never Want to Go Home”) and some of it will possibly incite riots in the small clubs they’re currently touring (“Need You Need You” is a 2 ½-minute cardio assault). They even demonstrate an ability to get psychedelic Jane’s Addiction-style, like on the slow, cosmic “Sleep Sunshine.”

When Rolling Stone dubbed the Whigs “the best unsigned band in America” at the beginning of last year, the magazine’s editors might not have expected the band to survive long enough to kick out a second album. Lord knows, those indie years are tough sledding. Mission Control stands as a debut album in many ways, yet the ferocious energy that these songs display is reminiscent of a far more seasoned band. No plastic production or busy overdubs to be found here, just 100% pure, Grade A, guitar-first college rock. The way it used to be on the streets of Radio Free Athens.

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