Change is usually not well received by music fans. When a beloved band undergoes a stylistic shift, it is usually met with scorn, disappointment, and even a feeling of betrayal. Change is also hard to avoid. Though bands like AC/DC have made a career out of releasing nearly identical albums, most artists adapt and evolve. As with most adaptations, not all musical shifts are for the best. The Whigs’ new album marks a career misstep, but only a minor one.
Enjoy the Company is the Whigs’ fourth album but the first on New West Records. Along with the label change comes a new direction for the band. The sound is tidier, more melodic, and carries a distinct pop sheen heretofore left out of the Whigs’ catalog. It’s not that the Whigs’ current incarnation isn’t good. Enjoy the Company is a quality album loaded with finely crafted rock songs. In comparison to their previous releases, however, the songs have less energy, less vitality. The guitars are cleaner, Parker Gispert’s vocals are more polished, and more attention is paid to melody. The result is a sound more geared to radio play than to a performance in a dirty Georgia club.
The new release is a far cry sonically from their debut, Give ‘Em All a Big Fat Lip. The 2005 album was recorded on equipment bought on eBay and self-released prior to the band signing with ATO records. The band’s next two releases captured the debut album’s raw garage intensity and anthemic riffing, but the new record eschews that gritty sound for slicker pop hooks.
Gispert and company can still pound out loud power chords, as evidenced by the extended jam in “Staying Alive,” and write pulse-raising rhythms, as proven with the thumping bassline of “Summer Heat.” The furious fuzzed-out riffing of “Rock and Roll Forever” is the closest the Whigs comes to their old form, but even the album’s best songs are missing that grime associated with their previous work.
Though Enjoy the Company is a letdown, it does close with its three best songs. “Thank You” is the record’s softest track, a stripped-down acoustic love letter that serves as the album’s most naked moment. The aforementioned “Rock and Roll Forever” is the collection’s fastest and most energetic track. “Ours” closes the album with a reminder of how great the Whigs’ music can be, with abrupt shifts from soft to massive riffs that hit like a sucker punch in the gut. With that, Enjoy the Company ends on a bittersweet note, with a tease of how good the record could have been.