Whipping Boy

Whipping Boy

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Posthumous albums are bittersweet. After a decade, Dublin's finest band called it a day in 1999, a year after recording this third LP. Dumped by Columbia despite rave reviews for 1995's phenomenal Heartworm, a Top 40 U.K. hit in "We Don't Need Nobody Else," and a reputation as a fearsome live group, Whipping Boy were unable to secure a new deal and capitulated. Damn it. Whipping Boy finds the quartet evolving exquisitely, adopting fresh touches such as washes of sonorous strings and sparkling piano, and composing some downright beautiful, tickling, ballad-tempo songs. And yet they remain all post-dream pop tension, a mix of Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine, and 1992 R.E.M. They're gentle and lulling, then distorted, bruising, and lascivious in turns. Fearghal McKee is the thick-voiced singer everyone should hear, equal measures sinister, sardonic, soothing, sympathetic, and sexy. His lyrics are little observations on other people's lives so succinct and colorful, they're like mini-movies. Best of all, every song is great. The pretty-pop prizes such as the opening, sweet "So Much for Love," "Who Am I?," and "Ghost of Elvis" are so playful and amiable, you almost forget the thunderclaps of dense, stun-guitar anxiety elsewhere. And even the harsh stuff is offset by something lovely like "Pat the Almighty"'s background harpsichord plinking amongst the chaos. Likewise, the closing "No Place to Go" is a small epic of feeling, with beauty and the beast in one song. In the end, it's hard to find a flaw with this fantastic, meticulously put together record. Unfortunately, this CD is going to prove a bitch to find. Released on their own label, it is at least available through guitarist Page. He has been reliable in selling them to those who e-mail him: (pagep@gofree.indigo.ie).

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