"River and ocean, a wave in my heart/We got your money, now we'll make a new start." And so the Whigs do. With Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith) helming the boards for its major-label debut, the Athens, Georgia-based rock band sounds immense. On the opening track, "Like a Vibration," Parker Gispert's guitar mimics a swarm of bees that just had its hive kicked in. "Right Hand on My Heart" begins somewhat more subdued, only to erupt with magmalike static. In the face of such an onslaught, the drummer might be forgiven for rather pedestrian fills. But Julian Dorio doesn't cede the spotlight, pounding with enough ferocity to give contour and shape to Gispert's six-string racket.
The trouble is, for all of its raucous din, Mission Control never really sounds like a proper Whigs album. In fact, at times, it almost plays like a collection of cover songs. "Hot Bed" is eerily similar to Nirvana, right down to Gispert's ragged wail. "I Got Ideas" cops an unmistakably Franz Ferdinand-like stuttering guitar line so identifiable that even the addition of horns can't distract. The Whigs' blatant tributes are especially odd considering how distinctive the band was at its inception, playing Replacements-style slacker-punk with a jangly Southern sensibility. The group's personality occasionally shines through, but for the most part, these genre exercises mask the Whigs' most compelling idiosyncrasies. Mission Control might qualify as a new start — just not a fresh one.
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