Click to hear: “Too_Much”
Whale Oil is a young power trio delivering just what Portland needs right now: simple, straight-ahead, ass-kickin’ rock ’n’ roll. Imagine the first Rush album if they let John Rutsey sing and you’re more than halfway to appreciating this promising debut.
Drummer Brian Saxton handles lead vocals on most songs, with guitarist Bill Scanlan taking the mic on a couple others. Neither’s much of a singer, but that’s beside the point. Bassist McCrae Hathaway rounds things out nicely by shutting up and laying down grooves.
After what I believe to be an actual voicemail from a woman threatening Saxton with legal action over group Whale Oil text messages she mistakenly believes are personal insults, the album slams into gear with “Too Much.” “Don’t judge me how I am / I’m the drummer of a rock ’n’ roll band,” Saxton yells with palpable exuberance. “Remember me as I was / I’m gonna fuck it up just because.” He and the boys then proceed to do just that, gloriously.
The punk numbers, like “Too Much” and “Lights Out,” are more fun than furious, and the bar-rock material (“Musketeers,” “Towards The End”) is suitably simple. The sludgy “Senses” earns most of the seven minutes of your attention it asks for, but “Working Man” it ain’t. If anything, Scanlan’s solos could stand to be even more indulgent than they already are. Take it over the top, dude!
A rousing acoustic sing-along (“Released”) and some power-chord blues rock (“New Epic”) bring the album to a satisfying conclusion. Low expectations and high volume combine to make Whale Oil a winner.
— Chris Busby
Whale Oil plays a CD release show on Friday, June 14, at Port City Music Hall (504 Congress St., Portland), with Darien Brahms, Lord Earth, and Brzowski.