Picks and Pans Review: Whisper Tames the Lion

updated 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

drivin' n' cryin'

Georgia is fast becoming the roots-rock capital of the world, and the Peach State has spawned yet another band steeped in that country-flavored subcategory with this Atlanta-based outfit. It's not a revelation to discover that the group's three members—guitarist-vocalist Kevn Kinney, bass player Tim Nielsen and drummer Jeff Sullivan—are chummy with their fellow members of the Georgia pop music community, R.E.M. and the Georgia Satellites. They all share a similar fundamental appreciation for uncomplicated arrangements that still carry a lot of firepower, but Kinney and company take an even keener interest in their lyrics. So if some of the 12 songs on this album sound suspiciously like R.E.M. or the Satellites, the words show an attempt at least to be more thoughtful. Check Your Tears at the Door, for example, is a touching song about death. It admonishes those who grieve to resume living their own lives quickly because "someday you'll be here/ So I'll just wait/ Like they waited for me/ Then we'll sing, dance, talk and cheer." Okay, so they aren't a bunch of Walt Whitmans. Consider the sort of material that pops up too often in this kind of rock, and this band is on the refreshing side. There are a number of dramatic shifts in style from song to song, like the abrupt change from the country feel of Catch the Wind With its friendly pedal steel guitar to the chugging power chords of Powerhouse. Kinney's vocal inflections are comparable to those of R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, however unconscious the similarity might be. There's plenty to like though. The record is divided into the "drivin' side" and the "cryin' side," and when all is said and sung on this pleasing major-label debut, it should leave most listeners smilin'. (Island)

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