Countless bands are ruined by predictions of their own greatness, and no group has more right to be feeling the heat than Athens garage-rockers the Whigs. After self-releasing their debut in 2005, Give ’Em All a Big Fat Lip, the Whigs were called by Rolling Stone “the next great band from R.E.M.’s hometown” and “the best unsigned band in America.” A lesser group would have collapsed under the pressure to perform, but the Whigs pulled a fast one: Mission Control leaps past expectations and establishes the Whigs as a formidable rock band in its own right.
The album follows a basic formula: heavy rhythm overlaid with energetic guitar lines. The beating tom-toms and power strumming start on opener “Like a Vibration” and set a high tempo that’s carried through the rest of the set. The Whigs pull back for a couple of slower numbers, but Mission Control crackles throughout with visceral immediacy.
Studio magic has no place on the record; the Whigs rely on three chords, wicked hooks, and the fearless vocal delivery of Parker Gispert. He performs a high-wire act, starting his voice at a classic-rock growl and twisting it into various configurations. Gispert’s vocals sometimes blend seamlessly with his guitar, but on “Never Wanna Go Home,” for example, he delivers a more straightforward and very compelling vocal. His voice provides a touchstone for the album, and the band seems careful not to overwhelm him with needless noise.
The music is stripped down but doesn’t sound minimal. Mission Control is a collection of catchy, raucous tunes. There’s little innovation here, but that’s not what these guys are about. The Whigs wrote some good rock ’n’ roll songs and played the hell out of them.