Vancouver, Canada-based Whitbeck provides us with an anthemic alternative debut rock album on January 22. The project is spearheaded by former Morning Maker, Tourist, and Shining Hour guitarist Greg Whitbeck. Whitbeck features guitarist Sean Dillon, bassist Mario Loubert and drummer Shiraz Mohammed live, and this is a record that one would look forward to listening live.
The album opens with a haunting piano riff on West Coast Love Song. The bass enters along with the culminating guitar lines. Whitbeck’s Stayne-like vocals sweep us. The mood changes to contemplative and inspiring when the chorus sounds amazing. Susana Williams features on some great vocal harmonies on this one. It sounds both dark and inspiring. The lyrical theme deals with the tragedy of indigenous children being taken away from their parents and dying unceremoniously in Canadian residential songs.
A.D.D. has a blazing recurring guitar riff and the vocals give a kickstart to the song. A short track under two minutes which works like an espresso and justifies the title. The title track starts with some delayed riffs reminding us of The Edge and U2. On the second verse, Whitbeck’s vocals really come through and shine. Another brief rock track on how love improves everything. Just A Little opens with some gritty vocal harmonies. The heavy chunky lead and rhythm phrases and riffs pump you up while chanting the spirited chorus. Fuzzy guitars greet us on Deliverance while we’re soon joined by a boxy rhythm section. It is a more straightforward rock song with still some innovative melodic elements. The bridge has an inspiring feel but we soon return to a darker sound.
Vocals tear apart the sonic canvass on Carpe Diem Sunrise to the background of a piano. After the first verse and chorus, the bass and drums join in the build-up to an uplifting track. Whitbeck croons on seizing the day along with thoughtful lyrics like “As old man time flees the scene, it’s already afternoon“. Shiny guitars treat us on Cinema with some flowy lines. This is a groovy song that has all the ingredients of a radio rock hit. The bassline on the track provides a firm foundation to this catchy track. We’re treated to a fiery solo on this track. The chorus lyrics illustrate Whitbeck’s great songwriting skills, “You’ve got a cinema heart, Sometimes it bleed, You’re always playing a part, Made for tv, And all the love you need , Stays just out of reach“.
The high-energy roller coaster continues with a Judas Priest-like feel on Pieces. With a gloomy feel in verses that build up the energy to a fulfilling resolution in the chorus. Another banger on the record. The song has a two-part chorus with a different harmonic feel in both. Sunbeams much like its title has rays as riffs. Whitbeck sings about moments passing on as the city sleeps and life moves on. The lyrical imagery on this one is very well done. Acoustic guitars and some unconventional musical elements shift the feel of the record on Drama On Hastings Street. With the bass providing the anticipation on the verses propel us to a vigorous chorus on this sombre track. What In The World treats us to a disco beat and syncopated riffs and a grungy vibe. The album ends on a heavy note with the In Other Words.
Whitbeck is an exhilarating album with a 90s rock vibe which might give some nostalgia but also modern elements to savour. The album has a raw and tight mix which is great to hear unlike the excessively polished records of today. The heavy guitars on the record have a range of tones all discernable while the rhythm section is hefty and dependable. The lyrics and Whitebeck’s stunning vocal delivery both energetic and emotional reminds one of Layne Staley and Eddie Vedder. The highlight of the album are West Coast Love Song and high-energy rock numbers like Just A Little, Cinema, Pieces. January 22 is a stunning offering of exhilarating darkened and soul-stirring alternative arena rock.