Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Whirlwind Heat “Do Rabbits Wonder?” (2003)

In my previous blog post, I mentioned the 2003 album from Whirlwind Heat titled Do Rabbits Wonder?, produced by Jack White and engineered by Brendan Benson. That album is currently out of print, although it is fairly easy to obtain. The album is ten years old as of this month (as is the White Stripes’ Elephant). It was the first non-White Stripes album released on the Third Man imprint.

Whirlwind Heat is an alternative trio from Michigan who tend to be heavily influenced by bands like Sonic Youth; in fact, their name comes from the cover art of Sonic Youth’s Goo album. But Do Rabbits Wonder? doesn’t quite have the same type of loose underground ethos that later Whirlwind Heat releases do. This is undoubtedly due to White’s production, which makes the band sound crisper, cleaner, and harder-hitting than usual.

On this album, Whirlwind Heat are reminiscent of the Pixies in many ways. David Swanson hoots and hollers like Black Francis, and Steve Damstra’s bass playing is sometimes similar to that of Kim Deal. But the bass plays a bigger role in this band, since the trio has no lead or rhythm guitarist. Damstra’s bass and Brad Holland’s drums propel the sound along, while Swanson adds agitated noises with his synthesizer. The band does use Sonic Youth-like distortion on this album, but the fairly straightforward bass and drums manage to pin things down more firmly than usual.

Do Rabbits Wonder? is Whirlwind Heat’s most technically professional album, but it’s arguably not their best. Their insolent post-punk ruckus can often be heard to better effect on their 2004 EP Flamingo Honey (which is literally a ten-track EP that runs for 10 minutes) and their 2006 album Types Of Wood, both of which have less sophisticated presentation. Besides, even with the technical guidance of White and Benson, the band still occasionally goes overboard with cacophonous noise (“Red” is the track that best illustrates this point). Still, Do Rabbits Wonder? is a generally fun entry in the alternative genre.

Note: Two of these songs are currently available on various-artists compilations which were both released in 2001. “Tan” appears under the title “Decal On My Sticker” on the 2001 CD Sympathetic Sounds Of Detroit, which is a Detroit scene compilation assembled by Jack White. “Grey” appears under the title “Disco Dust” on the Friction Records collection Vol. 1 Comp, available on mp3.

2/27/14 Update: Third Man Records has announced that Do Rabbits Wonder? will be reissued on vinyl for Record Store Day 2014. Limited edition colored vinyl versions will be available on Record Store Day, pressed in 12 of the different colors that were used as song titles. A standard black vinyl pressing will be released later in the year.

Whirlwind Heat “Do Rabbits Wonder?” (Third Man/V2 63881-27152-2) 2003

Track Listing:

1. Orange
2. Black
3. Purple
4. Tan
5. Green
6. Blue
7. Yellow
8. Pink
9. Red
10. Brown
11. Silver
12. White
13. Grey

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