Right from the off, it’s difficult to pin down Milwaukee quartet Whips’ sound precisely. There’s icy, sinister post-punk reminiscent of Savages (Ashley Smith’s vocal approach, especially, mirrors Jehnny Beth’s). But there’s also a more light-hearted, upbeat side to Whips’ sound that is closer to the modern indie-punk of bands on a label like Big Scary Monsters.
Despite these disparate styles, it’s clear that Whips are adept at combining the elements, and ‘The Ride’, shows continuining refinement when compared to their previous work. Songs like the title track and ‘Pest Control’ neatly tie bouncy melodies and speedy tempos together with harsh, post-punk riffs.
‘Goldmine’ and ‘Nobody’s Fool’ bring in some slower, sludgy riffs that keeps things interesting. The incorporation of these influences with an already established sound is handled especially well on ‘Nobody’s Fool’, with droning guitars complimenting Smith’s falsetto perfectly on the chorus.
Whips’ sludgier side is more fully developed on ‘Dominate’, the album’s six-minute-plus centrepiece. It’s a track that stands out because of its quality, but also because it sounds unlike anything else on ‘The Ride’. The explosive sludginess of the chorus is contrasted fantastically with its restrained, bass-heavy verses; and the refrain of “On your mark, get set, ready, let’s go”oozes cool.
Album closer, ‘Ms. Terry’ shows the other side of Whips. It’s an extremely catchy song that ends the album on a high note, with all the constituent parts coming together perfectly, the way a good pop song should.
That all said,‘The Ride’ isn’t always as good as ‘Dominate’ or ‘Ms. Terry’. There’s a dip in quality during the second half of the record, with ‘Medium’ and ‘Come On’ both somewhat forgettable. At its best, though, ‘The Ride’ is a fascinating, enjoyable listen. Whips manage to combine several different styles in a refined way that works, taking their sounds in many different places within the album’s 40-minute runtime. If it’s not perfect, it’s at least ambitious.
‘The Ride’ by Whips is released on 7th April on Skeletal Lightning.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)