Whiskerman’s new LP Kingdom Illusion
In “The Great Unknown,” one of the eight songs found on Whiskerman’s new LP Kingdom Illusion, percussion-born grooves are used as a means of facilitating every evocative pulsation in the bass, guitar and vocal discordance that occupies the top half of the mix, forcing listeners to engage with the lyrics in an almost duress-inducing fashion, while in “Belly of the Beast,” a similarly rhythmic expressiveness inspires feelings quite the contrary. Textured drumbeats imply anxiety in “Fuck Yeah” only to dispel its very existence in progressive breakdowns like those found in the haze of “Villains,” and no matter where we look and listen in Kingdom Illusion, they tend to be as pivotal to the development of this album’s narrative as any of the lyrics or melodic ribbonry are. Whiskerman are using every weapon available to them in this latest release, and chief among them, the powerfully provocative engine of chaos that is percussive prowess.
Beyond the exotic beats we encounter in the aforementioned tracks, the indulgent melodicism of “Be Real,” “Something About Love” and the title track in Kingdom Illusion definitely makes this record worth checking out all by itself (especially when taking into consideration just how minimalist-influenced much of the output we’ve heard from Whiskerman’s contemporaries has been). Every bit of excess in the stylized string play of the title cut, haunting piano keys in “Rattlesnake” and bludgeoning bassline in “Villains” is balanced out with an efficient approach to songwriting found throughout the whole of the LP, which is more than I can say for some of the similarly ambitious content I’ve reviewed out of the American underground lately.
The master mix is a little sleeker than it needed to be in “Fuck Yeah,” “Be Real,” “The Great Unknown” and “Something About Love,” but I definitely understand the concept that Whiskerman were going for in adopting as varnished a sound in these tracks as they did. By juxtaposing gritty alternative elements with a fairly pop-friendly finish in these four songs, they make it easy for both college radio audiences and FM newbies to get into their style of play without feeling intimidated by the band’s indie cred (which, I might add, they’re maintaining quite wonderfully in this album). There’s a method behind everything Whiskerman are doing here, and though it might not fit in with the status quo in mainstream pop/rock, it definitely works for their sound (and the identity it’s inevitably produced for them).
I’ve been following this band for a while now, and in my opinion, Kingdom Illusion is by far their tightest work yet. None of the songs here are simple – “Something About Love”/“Belly of the Beast” are the shortest, clock in at three and a half/four and a half minutes each – but despite the complex nature of every composition on this album, there’s never a moment where any of the music feels so highbrow or conceptual that casual listeners couldn’t enjoy it as much as Whiskerman’s diehard fans would. In short, Kingdom Illusion is a fantastically engaging affair that I would recommend to anyone who likes deep-thinking indie rock.