Whipping Boy - Heartworm
One of the few albums I have bought solely because of a recommendation from a friend that actually impressed me from the outset. I confess I had never heard of this band until their name featured on a thread on a website I used to frequent and one of those whose opinions I respect commented what a good album it was. Despite commonsense I do occasionally rush out and try to get a copy of albums recommended to me in such a manner before I sit down and download a few tracks to check out. I am more frequently disappointed by the outcome than not. That was definitely not the case with Heartworm.
Just in case you are expecting, on account of the fact that the band is Irish, that you will be treated to another fest of tepid alternative rock such as U2 or the Cranberries have a propensity to issue, don't be alarmed. Whipping Boy are nothing of the sort. Indeed, this album follows in the tradition of another Irish outfit whose music I like a lot, The Stars of Heaven. Melancholy, thoughtful music which has been completely ignored. And it is hardly surprising that Whipping Boy themselves got completely ignored at a time when music was crying out for something different. Something different came along and those crying the loudest closed their ears.
Ian was right when he rated this highly. I am not sure what you would classify this, but is certainly does strike a chord in your heart when you listen to it. It manages to be a combination of melancholy and positive at the same time and that seems to be the consequence of the mental state of frontman Fearghal McKee who, on the last track (almost a hidden track) lets the listener in on his secret. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and then proceeds to explain how that, and the knowledge of it, has affected him. Don't doubt it - this is genuine. If you don't believe me, just listen to the music and will not take you too long before the lyrics convince you McKee's admission was an act of unparalleled musical honesty.
"Twinkle", the opener, is the top track and has a real feel of power about it. That some people can categorise this as shoegaze, while erroneous, is perhaps understandable in the light of tracks like this. "We Don't Need Nobody Else" is not far behind. That track deals with the frequently taboo subject of domestic violence from a unique perspective - the violent male. The results are quite surprising. The remainder are fine in their own right as well, a mixture of rock, up tempo, melancholy, mildly optimistic and savagely biting criticism, the band hits you in many ways, not all of them comforting. In many ways it harkens back to another age, and draws on the folk music of the Irish pubs between the wars.
Indeed, it is the ability of the album to throw you out of your comfort zone and into a place where you feel uneasy, disturbed, even threatened by the music and the lyrics, which is its greatest strength. For me, an album which doesn't make me feel is an album which has not been worth listening to. No one could accuse Heartworm of this. Confronting the deep, often hidden frustration and miseries of everyday life, the album springs from a mind oppressed, and to anyone who has ever considered their place in life, their own humanity and the important esoteric questions which go with it, this album challenges you. Be warned, if you want -happy, happy, happy - or expect your music to take you out of your humdrum existence to a cheerful, better place, then don't listen to this.
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on 2011-03-24 CharlesMartel Said:
Not to be confused with an American hardcore punk outfit of a decade earlier, Whipping Boy were something special. Post-shoegaze but with real punch, this album was the finest of their brief career.