Local Album Review: A dose of whole-hearted rock’n’roll

Posted on February 24, 2014 in Album Reviews, Arts & Culture
By dkelly

Whale Oil

Whale Oil’s self-titled release isn’t complicated, technically proficient or even polite. What it is, however, is rock’n’roll, pure and simple.

Whale Oil is on the front lines of keeping the power trio tradition alive. Brian Saxton pounds his drumkit for all it’s worth and sings (well, screams) with an astoundingly high level of energy. Bill Scanlan on guitar tears his way through tracks with dirty tones and a take-no-prisoners attitude. McCrae Hathaway, backup vocals and bass, lays down the bottom-end by giving raw energy a solid foundation to fall back on.

Whale Oil describes themselves as “Barn Rock.” This label is refreshing in the heap of overproduction that dominates the modern music market. Whale Oil is raw. Bass, guitar, drums and vocals make raucous sounds that should only be listened to loud. “Too Much,” for example, starts the album off right with bashing guitar, pounding drums and vocal chords stretched to their limits. Saxton summarizes the band’s philosophy well when he screams, “I’m gonna fuck it up just because.” Mistakes don’t seem to matter when a power trio is plowing through a tune with unparalleled energy at volumes your audiologist should not know about.

Even the slower tunes on this album keep pace with a no-nonsense attitude. After an extended intro layered with guitars, “Senses” uses a rock-solid bass groove paired with only drumkit to create an extremely powerful, yet minimalistic sound. When the guitar finally comes in, the energy level is taken one step further, turning Saxton’s vocals into a catchy chorus hook. The best part, though, is the guitar solo at the end, which sounds like a combination of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Kobain, something that no one would have expected to sound as good as it does.

“New Epic,” the last track on the album, sounds exactly as the title suggests. Distorted guitar, loose drums and pounding bass are all played how they should be at the end of a show—sounds are sloppy, but that’s the point. Ragged vocal harmonies top things off with a three-beers-in kind of sound.

“Hadlock Field” follows suit. But when harmonies aren’t enough, background vocals switch to background screaming. This technique matched with Saxton’s characteristic powerful drumming and a chordal guitar riff creates a track that is quick to get stuck in your head. But, who knows, maybe that’s just because of how loud you’re playing it.

While listener’s looking for technically virtuosic and finely polished music should look elsewhere, Whale Oil gives something that can’t be made by spending nth number of hours in the practice room. Self-discipline, a value touted in college academics, represents the anti to this album. But that’s its redeeming characteristic–this music isn’t about following the rules.  However you want to describe it, attitude, sticking it to the man, etc., Whale Oil represents whole-hearted rock’n’roll.