White Whale's Psychedelic Sabbath Sounds

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Rolling Stone writer Christian Hoard reviews the debut CD from the group White Whale, WWI. Hoard says the group's music blends psychedelic rock with hints of the Kinks and Black Sabbath.


Finally today, White Whale. That is a band from Lawrence, Kansas that releases its debut album, WWI, today. Here's Christian Hoard of Rolling Stone Magazine with a review.

(Soundbite of song, Fidget and Fudge)

Mr. MATT SUGGS (Lead Singer, White Whale): (Singing) I'll be one forever, forever best. With me it's a courtroom. With you, I'm the best...


That's White Whale getting their Pink Floyd on with a song called Fidget and Fudge. The 7-minute track begins with soft, synth-driven pitter-patter and ends with an epic, crunching guitar jam. What you're hearing is the narcotic, psychedelic middle part.

(Soundbite of song, Fidget and Fudge)

HOARD: Not all the songs on White Whale's pretty good debut album, WWI, are that long or that expansive, but the album covers a lot of ground. White Whale are an indie rock supergroup of sorts, featuring members of pop punks The Get Up Kids, symphonic-minded rockers Thee Higher Burning Fire, and a lead singer, Matt Suggs, who's schooled in '60s-style chamber pop.

WWI touches on those bands' areas of expertise and a lot more. It's a mildly psychedelic rock record that includes a lot of other styles. Besides Pink Floyd, it at times recalls Roxy Music and The Kinks, as well as ambitious young bands like The Decembrists and the Arcade Fire.

(Soundbite of song, I Love The Lovely Chinese Gal)

HOARD: Not surprisingly, the album feels a little overstuffed and all over the place, setting strong moments alongside hazier stuff.

(Soundbite of song, I Love The Lovely Chinese Gal)

Mr. SUGGS: (Singing) I love the lovely Chinese girl. I love her dark China sea...

HOARD: That song, I Love The Lovely Chinese Gal, is one of several slower cuts on WWI. It's a good example of the kind of sound White Whale seemed to be going for for much of the album: woozy and dark at times, with an undercurrent of sweet melody.

That song dovetails with lyrics about a tumultuous sea voyage, a concept as adventurous and murky as WWI's sonic free-for-all. Besides psychedelia and progressive rock, WWI also touches on dark, hard-driving rock, atmospheric electronic pop, and sweeter folky stuff - a complex brew that's generally interesting and sometimes seductive. Generally, the up-tempo stuff is the strongest.

(Soundbite of song, We're Just Temporary, Ma'am)

HOARD: On this song, We're Just Temporary, Ma'am, White Whale sounds something like expert track-makers, finding the right mix of cushy atmospherics and well-placed jagged guitars, and maintaining a surreal sound while working up some engaging, propulsive rock.

(Soundbite of song, We're Just Temporary, Ma'am)

Mr. SUGGS: (Singing) (Unintelligible) the cowards and the (unintelligible) with a silver cross. (Unintelligible) She caught my hand to come her saying won't you be my man? Yes, but forgive me dear for right now I'm here, but that's just temporary, Ma'am.

HOARD: WWI delivers only halfway when it comes to songwriting. Cuts like Forgive the Forgiven feel a little undercooked and a little light on memorable tunes or a strong undertow. But with the explorations in sound, White Whale have established themselves as a band to watch. And when they maintain their focus, as on fully formed, strongly tuneful cuts like this one - Yummy Man Farewell - WWI can push your pleasure buttons.

(Soundbite of song, Yummy Man Farewell)

CHADWICK: The band is White Whale. The CD is called WWI. Our reviewer Christian Hoard is a contributing writer for Rolling Stone.

(Soundbite of song, Yummy Man Farewell)

Mr. SUGGS: (Singing) (Unintelligible) You must not finish what you started, I could see what you (unintelligible). Oh my God, pour it over me. I can't believe it's true.

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from I'm Alex Chadwick.

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