Words by James Lavel
Sunshine Coast alt rock/pop/punk legends Big Whoops have been hard at work recording/mixing their latest EP ‘Virtuous and Vile’ since mid-May this year. The group – consisting of Zane Nichol (guitar/vocals), Rangi White (drums) and Ben Arnett (bass) – recently released their single Criminal and have been working hard to promote both the single and their EP with a string of shows across Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast in recent months. Recorded at Bedlam Studios with Brock Weston of Bugs, ‘Virtuous and Vile’ brings the goods. There is a distinctively more aggressive and emotive feel to this EP compared to their previous singles Slither and For Crying Out Loud. It feels like the boys are really settling in to their sound with their first track, Haunt Me Out.
The track starts out with some dark undertones before distorted guitar breaks through the mix. The vocal track is raw as hell (in a good way); it gave me vibes of Marylin Manson’s Warship my Wreck. It’s not long before the tone shifts swiftly, throwing catchy vocal hooks and riffs right at your face. I really enjoyed the structure in this song. The melodic vocal direction in the middle of the song nicely demonstrates the group’s flexibility as musicians.
A Brief Reprieve may be the name of the next track, but it doesn’t pull any punches. This track feels like a long hard look in the mirror – “happiness depends on validation, yet validation is what happiness provides”. It addresses our social (or not so social) habits – what I interpreted as our self-created social images “raise your disguises”. It hits hard, never failing to hit the mark. Stop worrying about your image (your disguise, if you will) and “let your heart be satisfied”.
Track three, What If? feels like a return to form for the boys. Taking a step away from the in-your-face approach of the past two tracks, What If? has a bouncier feel, catchy solos and a singalong-worthy chorus; yet at no point does this detract from the weight of the lyrics. This song definitely has some deep undertones, but I can’t help but feel it’s more of an anthem to late night kebabs, sore heads and questionable decisions. This song belongs in your next road trip playlist.
Kicking things back up a gear, their single Criminal is up next. Instantly this song gives me Shellac vibes, the guitar harnessing that loose Steve Albini feel. The vocal delivery reminds me a little of how Davey Havoc used to sing older AFI. This track did a hell of a job keeping my foot tapping. The drums and rolling bass lines really glue it all together. I really dug the message of this track also – “send him to the gallows, drop the deadened weight”. From my interpretation at least, the song feels like a reminder to not to be a dick and not let others get you down, as they will get what’s coming. “Were all given what we’re worth, you’ll get what you deserve”.
Last but not least is Old and Faultful. Aptly named, this track feels like safe ground for the lads. Much like what If? this track has a similar upbeat anthem vibe, yet they have managed to squeeze in some extra angst. The song takes a notable departure from the expected structure, keeping you guessing where it’s going to take you. They even descend into some heavier breakdowns before the song is through. Luckily, unlike Yoko Ono, they aren’t taking it to “strange new places”; this song is a great wrap to a killer EP.
You can catch the boys this December as they head down the south east coast to promote the EP – keep up-to-date HERE
‘Virtuous and Vile’ is out NOW & “available everywhere”