In the Dark has gigantic aspirations. Allegedly inspired by a stadium-crushing world tour with the all-mighty Kings of Leon, the Whigs do their best to channel the ostentatious likes of Television, the Stooges, and fellow Athens natives R.E.M. It’s an ambitious and easily applaudable undertaking, which only makes it more of a shame that the band doesn’t really get that close to achieving it. In the Dark‘s few glimmers of hope are combed over by a walloping surge of neutered mediocrity, and ends up distancing us from what made the Whigs so likable in the first place.
To be fair, the first three tracks sound like they could actually pull it off. “Hundred/Million” and “Black Lotus” are respectably huge, with Julian Dorio’s drums and Parker Gispert’s guitar cranked up to a fuzzy, ear-breaking roar. But as we get farther from the top of the album, we’re increasingly mired in a brown, muddled slush of sterile, paint-by-numbers peaks. The boozy swamp-stomp “I Don’t Even Care About the One I Love” and the cracked-out-paranoid “So Lonely” are supposed to inspire some highway-yearning splendor, but their tired, dispassionate hooks are so disarmed (and so boring) that they synthesize into a sluggish, almost Creed-like dredge.
In the Dark is an excessively fundamental album (guitars, drums, and bass, chorus-verse-chorus—that’s all there), and viscerally, it’s not too offensive. But with so many other, better bands like the Gaslight Anthem and the Hold Steady with vastly more effective material made of the same ingredients, it’s pretty hard to recommend.