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Review: The Whigs at Radio Radio

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4 stars
Radio Radio, April 28.

You can't go wrong putting a guitar, bass and drum set into the hands of three shaggy Southern studs. Throw in a lot of fast, open chords, a little distortion, heavy drum work and you've almost got Athens, Ga.-based garage rock band The Whigs. But there's something more that pushes these guys from being a mere wall-climbing, guitar-slamming rock band. It has to do with their complex lyrics — and the polished, deliberate machismo that flavors lead singer/guitarist Parker Gispert's voice.

Backed up by Timothy Deaux on bass and Julian Dorio on drums, the band brought their high-powered and evolved species of garage rock to Radio Radio Friday night for the first time since 2007, though they've played Birdy's a few times since then, Gispert said to the crowd.

The band opened their set with two cuts from their second album, Mission Control (2008), that typify their sound — "Like a vibration" and "Already young" — before moving to the lyrically-inventive and distinctly alternative track "Black Lotus," from their most recent album, In the Dark (2010). That particular song is perhaps where The Whigs are at their musical and lyrical best, where they step out of the garage rock box to attack some of the sterility and alienation of modern life.

Later in the show, Gispert gave his guitar over to bassist Deaux and sat down at the keyboard for the multi-part and oddly unclassifiable cut "Half the world away." Given the quality of Deaux's riffs and Gispert's spooky, futuristic sound at the keys, it's a wonder they don't switch up more often. One new song was a dud, though: "Waiting," an unremarkable departure into a more introspective direction.

All nitpicking aside, The Whigs brought the noise on Friday, playing what they play best: loud, fast, guitar rock that expresses the kind of sophisticated anger you'd expect from three guys who've been at it for nearly ten years and are trying to mature while keeping it real.

Opening up for The Whigs was Chicago-based group Company of Thieves. Fronted by lead singer Genevieve Schatz, Company of Thieves plays a sort of soulful, theatrical rock that features sophisticated guitar work and makes good use of the dramatic possibilities of the keyboard. When asked after the show to describe their sound, even Schatz agreed that it's hard to put Company of Thieves into a musical category, but this group definitely has something good going on, and a new album, Running from a Gamble, is on the way May 17.

Local trio Maravich opened up the night with a distinctly more Whig-ish sound that combined elements of punk and grunge. Lyrics like, "When science fiction becomes science fact, writing the future to forget the past...only the victors write the book," make these guys a little more intriguing than your average punk-grunge rockers.

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