CD Review: The Whigs, “In the Dark”

The Whigs - In the DarkThe power trio has had a long and glorious history in the annals of rock and roll. The simple, but often explosive blend of electric guitar, bass, and drums is rock and roll at its most elemental. Buddy Holly and the Crickets are often thought of as the first power trio. In the 1960′s, bands like Cream, Mountain, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience followed their lead. The format exploded in the ’70s, with bands like the James Gang, Grand Funk Railroad, ZZ Top, the Jam, the Police, Rush, and the Robin Trower Band.

After falling out of favor briefly in the ’80s, the power trio format returned in a big way with bands like Husker Du, Primus, Nirvana, the Minutemen, and Green Day. And that’s not even including bands that are power trios in musical terms, but have a lead singer. This twist on the form includes such stalwarts as U2, the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Sex Pistols, and Black Sabbath. Then there’s that bastard-child keyboards, bass and drums thing (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer anyone?), but that’s not a true power trio.

The good news is that the power trio is alive and well in the new century, and the Athens, GA-based band the Whigs, is doing its part to spread the gospel. With their third album, In the Dark (ATO Records), the Whigs seem poised to take their place in the more august company cited above. It’s all there; the massive electric guitar sound, the thundering bass, and the pounding drums. What sets the Whigs apart though is a fine sense of melody, and overall pop-smarts. “So Lonely,” and especially “I Don’t Even Care About the One I Love” are two of the best tracks I’ve heard this year.

The Whigs fine 2007 effort, Mission Control, garnered the band a lot of attention, and some prestigious touring slots, including shows with the Kings of Leon, and Drive By Truckers, and their first European tour. In the Dark demonstrates the kind of album-to-album growth that is gratifying to hear from a young band. The elements are all in place for The Whigs, and this album could very well be their breakthrough. Don’t miss it.