Being the first band, other than the White Stripes, to release an album on JackWhite's Third Man label has to be a mixed blessing. On one hand there's thebenefit of the spotlight bounce emanating from one of rock's finest talents.But that light can quickly become a glare, and the association can lead to expectations—particularlyabout what you should sound like. Suffice to say that Whirlwind Heat soundsnothing like the White Stripes—or anything else you're likely to hear, for thatmatter.
That said, the Moog-bass-drums trio from Grand Rapids, Michigan has touchstonesin all sorts of, well, weird rock forebears, from the oft-mentioned Devo toother envelope-stretching outfits such as Ween, Braniac and the Flying Lizards.Whirlwind Heat is an exercise in modern noisemaking, surrounding David Swanson'ssemi-hinged vocals with sparse, kinetic arrangements driven by bassist SteveDamstra and drummer Brad Holland and colored by Swanson's synthesizer squiggles.The 13 songs are each named after colors, but it's a stretch to call them evocativeunless the stuttering dynamics and almost random stabs of sound make "Brown"and "Black" part of the same pigment posse, too. "Purple"hues a bit closer to traditional guitar-style rock, and "Yellow" hasa subtle funk undertone, while "Silver's" bouncy, almost soulful rhythmdevolves into a harsh, claustrophobic swirl. The dissonance more often engagesthan repels, though there are certainly moments where the latter is the caseand Whirlwind Heat's virtues become lost in the din. When that happens, however,it's best to tune into Swanson's lyrics, a disassociated tangle of dumpstersluts, trash bag helmets and girls with mangled hair that represents some ofthe screwiest oral adventures since Robyn Hitchcock's early solo albums.