White Whale, WWI

White Whale, WWI

A good indication of whether I like an album or not is whether I choose to listen to it outside of my reviewing duties. Many a reviewed album gets spun only a few times, then relegated to a pile that reminds you that “getting to keep what you review” is sometimes not such a great motivator. On the other hand, you get to hear a bunch of music you might not otherwise be exposed to, and occasionally, you catch a gem in the massive pile of mediocrity. One of those gems is White Whale’s WWI, a sprawling seafaring epic of love (for both woman and vessel) and devotion to the sea. The goofy press release aside, White Whale has something here, an album that is spellbinding in both talent and imagery.

It must be incredibly difficult to pull off a concept album like this. My guess is that most who try get bored long before they get done: the story gets stale, the band chemistry goes bad, or the music morphs in a direction different from the original vision. This is especially the case with lyrics: they all have to go together, or else the listener gets confused. Luckily, this is never the case with WWI; the album gets stronger and more vivid as it sucks the listener.

It’s difficult to describe the style or sound of the songs overall, as they evolve as the album progresses, and lead singer Matt Suggs seems to get more comfortable singing and living in the characters that he is portraying. “Nine Good Fingers” is a good start, typical alt-pop, but doesn’t have the same feel as the rest of the album. “O William, O Sarah” really starts the epic, with William the captain leaving his love for the Academy and the open sea, and ends with a driving electronica groove over acoustic drums and distorted vocal stabs and slices. “The Admiral” is the first truly thematic song, with naval marching drums and a traditional rhyming limerick scheme building to a bombastic, movie-soundtrack ending. “I Love Lovely Chinese Girl” is meant to sound dirge-like and Eastern, with lyrics and phrasing similar to that of a non-native English speaker, subtly expanding the song’s imagery.

“What’s An Ocean For” is a bit of The Cure, while “We’re Just Temporary Ma’am” is the emotional center of the album, an angry song of loss and the seemingly callous lack of commitment by the Captain as he leaves his love to find his sacked ship, describing both himself and her as “temporary.” The album slows down for a breather with the beginning of “Forgive the Forgiven,” electronic beats under a slow, dreamy rhythm part, reminiscent of that song with the chick on the beach by Chris Isaak but building to powerful climax. “Fidget And Fudge” starts the final third of the album, reflecting on “what parasites we are” as bells play in the background. Some of the best writing on the album would be at home on a Pink Floyd or Radiohead album, with nice turns of phrase like “Telling us you are all ears / When we know you are all thumbs” paired with a fun, scattery electronic drum part underneath and climbing to a layered guitar wash held down by bludgeoned acoustic drums. “Yummyman Farewell/Kings Indian/One Prayer” is a fitting, glorious end to the album. Pretty amazing stuff from land-locked Kansas. Highly recommended.

(Merge Records -- P.O. Box 1235, Chapel Hill, NC. 27514; http://www.mergerecords.com/; White Whale -- http://www.myspace.com/whitewhalemusic)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Thursday, October 5th, 2006. Filed under Reviews.

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One Response to “White Whale, WWI

  1. click on December 11th, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Good blog! Have a great day!

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