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Album Review

Matt Suggs has been in the indie rock game for a long time. Starting with Butterglory in the mid-'90s, then moving on with a couple of fine, understated solo albums in the early 2000s, he has turned out nothing but high-quality product. His new group, White Whale, continues the run of excellent releases. Teaming with ex-Get Up Kid Robert Pope and three members of the Higher Burning Fire (John Anderson, Zack Holland, Dustin Than Kinsey), Suggs leaves understatement behind on WWI. The album is a larger-than-indie record that blends elements of folk, prog, post-rock, electronica, and chamber pop together, throws them mixed up on the big screen, and comes up sounding (mostly) like no one other than White Whale. The epic scale and ambition of the record can be summed up in one line — "Fidget and Fudge" expertly channels mid-'70s Pink Floyd. How you feel about that will either ratchet your interest up or send you running for the aisles. If you stick around you will find fine songwriting from Suggs and band on aching ballads like "Forgive the Forgiven," "One Prayer," and "The Admiral," as well as thrillingly dynamic rockers like "We're Just Temporary Ma'am" and first-class melodic indie rock tunes like "Yummyman Farewell." You'll also find an exciting level of sonic experimentation. Indeed, it is the care they put into the sound of the album that keeps them from slipping over the line into Coldplay or Keane territory on the ballads and from possible overindulgence on the longer songs. They use dub techniques, squelchy synths that pop up out of nowhere, cheesy drum machines, and varied guitar tones to keep listeners on their toes and to help puncture any pretensions that might otherwise creep in. It's hard to be too high and mighty when at any second a synth that sounds like a refugee from a Chicory Tip 45 might waltz in. It isn't easy to strike the right balance between ambition and emotion, scale and humanity; White Whale manage it with ease on WWI. Hats off to Matt Suggs for keeping his streak alive.


Formed: Lawrence, KS

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

When Matt Suggs (who was in the '90s indie rock duo Butterglory) wanted a touring band for his 2003 solo album, Amigo Row, he looked no further than former Higher Burning Fire members and fellow Kansans John Anderson, Dustin Than Kinsey, and Zach Holland for help, with whom he had been playing on and off since 2000. They got along together so well that they decided to form their own band, White Whale, bringing ex-Get-Up Kids bassist Robert Pope in, with Anderson on drums, Kinsey on guitar and synths,...
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WWI, White Whale
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