Whip It Baby


Juicy Juju Records, 2001


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Ever since No Doubt struck it big with their album Tragic Kingdom, I've been waiting for someone to pick up on the ska influence that ran as a vein with No Doubt. Surely someone would eventually try to repeat the success by capitalizing on the danceable sound of this form of reggae.

Boston-based Lovewhip has done just that, relying on the shuffle-like beat of ska and a bare-bones horn section. Their disc Whip It Baby! tries to beat No Doubt at their own game, even throwing in some African rhythms, but in the end, the only words one could say to the group would be, "Nice try."

It's not that vocalist/guitarist Erin Harpe and crew don't have the style of the music down; rhythmically, they do a very good job laying down a groove that even Frankenstein could dance to. But what they are lacking is a sense of magic that lifts the music to a new level. In the end, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Whip It Baby! sounds like a carbon copy of what other groups have already perfected.

There are moments where such a synthesis of Carribean rhythms and African beats and chants does succeed. "Buana Juju" has an infectious style to it, making sure that the listener is locked in for the length of the song. It almost has a Paul Simon-like quality to it, especially in the guitars. Maybe that's the best way to describe what Lovewhip is trying to accomplish here: No Doubt trying to record Graceland.

If only all the songs were as successful as "Buana Juju" is. For the most part, Whip It Baby! is filled with half-developed ideas that could have been great, had one thing or another been augmented. A different lyric style here, a better beat there, stronger vocals (or at least with greater range) than what Harpe offers in other places, the list goes on.

Tracks like "Oh Dear Jehu" and "Come Down J.J." do, admittedly, get a little better with repeat listens. But despite all the band's efforts, the bulk of these tracks are missing some intangible thing that would kick them up to the next level. This is what is difficult about reviewing a CD like Whip It Baby!: it's too easy to say something's missing, but it's damn near impossible to say just what that something is. It's a style, an attitude, a feeling - something you can neither put your hands on nor attempt to fake.

This doesn't mean that Whip It Baby! is a bad release; repeat listens do show the promise this group has. (Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, this disc at least lends itself to multiple listens.) But what Lovewhip needs to do is to hunker back down, work on really crafting their style, and coming out of the box the next time with a sound and groove that would blow a hurricane back into the sea. Until then, Whip It Baby! is an okay attempt, but it seems to suggest that Lovewhip could have done so much more.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Juicy Juju Records, and is used for informational purposes only.