Since I’ve been going on a bit of a nineties nostalgia trip of late I decided to unearth I review I did for Whipping Boy’s debut album ‘Submarine’ which you’ll be surprised to hear is my favourite album from them by a long distance. You’ll find the title track and the angry ant that is ‘Sushi’ for your listening please below.
“My earliest memory of Whipping Boy came courtesy of a gig they played in our college canteen, albeit a short one consisting of only 2 songs. The show was cancelled due to a cleaning lady’s inability to hear herself think above the wonderfully high decibel levels. Whipping Boy were performers who played on the edge. Having met lead singer Ferghal McKee after an explosive gig in Galway I was surprised at how modest and shy he was. Believe me, seeing a grown man with his head wrapped in cling film makes you wonder whether he should out in public without his shrink (wrap). A few years later I happened upon the band again, this time in Dublin. The aggression and pent up emotions were still very much in evidence. My notes on the climax of the gig read as follows; ‘The finale is astonishing, a wall of friendly noise crashes towards the agog crowd as bass player Myles McDonnell (pristine hair intact) ascends the mountainous drum section until he stands at the top crouched like a 90’s Hercules wielding his mighty instrument….I want to form a band’. That night the band had left the stage a full 10 minutes before the incredible feedback from their guitars was silenced. Exhilarating.
Submarine was released in 1992 is without doubt Whipping Boy’s masterpiece. ‘Heartworm’ (1995) certainly had it moments (‘Personality’ for example) and ‘Whipping Boy’ (2000) is also a commendable listen but nothing on either quite matches the intangible anger and melody of their debut. A re-recorded ‘We Don’t Need Nobody Else’ appeared on ‘Heartworm’, but it pales in comparison to the original version. At times ‘Submarine’ mimics that unique My Bloody Valentine abrasive style. At first the torrent of white noise is off-putting but looking beyond the obvious reveals a montage that is awe-inspiring. So while ‘Favourite Sister’ initially feels like it has made your ears bleed, in time you gather that the salivation process is not only confined to the mouth. ‘Safari’ has huge chunky chords that don’t bed down until McKee’s robotic voice adds some direction. While it has a menacing presence you get drawn in by its eclectic leanings. ‘Beatle’ sways under the weight of some heavy percussion. The guitars sound brittle but send deep shards of sassy sounds hurtling towards you. So far it all amounts to something and nothing but ‘Sushi’ manages to raise the stakes considerably. It’s jangling moments contrast with the unrestrained vitriol of lyrics like ‘In Your White Surburban, You’re Tearing My Home Down’. In this regard Whipping Boy are not too dissimilar to those other anti-capitalists Rage Against The Machine. As the song feels its way into your thoughts, things are cooled down somewhat by a searching twinkling guitar noodle. Sweet.
For a time way back when, ‘Favourite Sister’ was my favourite song in the whole world. It still sounds huge, the searing (appearing from a long and windy tunnel) guitar tumble flits like a budgie with fangs and the vocal delivery is beautifully cast into an art form. After this glorious mess ‘Astronaut Blues’ offers a refrigerated towel to wipe the brow. It’s easy to imagine McKee in all his nautical gear 100 foot under the sea. The vocals swoosh beguilingly along as if every breath taken requires a significant effort. Submarine’s cover has art deco pretensions. A cool blue image of several Easter Island stonework’s hovering over a barren desert landscape contrasts with the portrait inside of the innocent playing a guitar at the entrance to hell. Compared to this, gazing through port holes doesn’t seem that anal after all! Side 2 shuffles out of traps sounding dust free and ebullient. The shimmering guitars on ‘Bettyclean’ are spectacular, McKee appears drunk on their effervescence. The chord change half way through is genuinely spine tingling and even the disturbed out of tune whistling at the end is entirely appropriate. As is their want, Whipping Boy are quick to pull the deep pile carpet from underneath the haven created by ‘Bettyclean’. ‘Buffalo’ is a nightmare vision that appears like a horse drawn hearse with the grim reaper at the controls. The loose-limbed guitar mosh and McKee’s vocal intensity could provide one or two lessons for some of today’s stadium rockers.
Paul Page, Whipping Boy’s inspirational guitarist turns in another virtuoso performance on ‘Snow’. It’s loud, frantic and likely to create a mini tornado in any room it gets to flex its considerable muscles. ‘Valentine’ is equally mesmeric, circling like a helicopter propeller the guitars crash into chaos at periodic intervals. When order is restored you’ll either be enamoured or blinded by the white noise. Like all superb albums ‘Submarine’ signs off with a bewildering effort. The title track ‘Submarine’ focuses on a jangling centrepiece while some infrequent blusters of raging guitars summon McKee’s hushed vocal volleys. Such music deserves a bigger stage and it remains a great shame that this talented band have not reaped the rewards of success. Whipping Boy’s debut has been deleted for several years now so it’s unlikely that you’ll happen upon a copy. If you are lucky enough, savour the time you spend together and pass on my good wishes. This kind of underwater love will fill your life with absurd happiness.” KD
Whipping Boy – Sushi Whipping Boy – Submarine