Whirlwind Heat - Flamingo Honey (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Whirlwind Heat

Flamingo Honey (2004)

Dim Mak

Thanks, Whirlwind Heat, for giving me a lot of things to write about. This unique no-guitar trio (bass/drum/synth) from Michigan has definitely released an interesting EP. It's a ten-song EP. That's right.

Each song is as close to a minute as possible, ranging from 56 seconds to 1:03, and some even manage to cut off in the middle of a drum fill or a word. Why, I'm not sure, and I'm even more confused as to why I like this. It's just unique. The band is very spastic and likely improvisational in nature, and comes across as very exciting and even funny at times. The synth squeals and squawks, the bass grooves and other times chugs, and the drumming powers everything along, sounding like they were recorded at very high volume.

Whirlwind Heat are not like anything I have ever heard, so it is difficult to compare them to other bands based purely on sonic elements. If anything, it made me think of The Dismemberment Plan, specifically …Is Terrified, really only because of the sheer excitement and the "what are they gonna do next?" factor these albums share. It also reminded me of Wire's Pink Flag, not because they sound like them in the least, but because this album also contains fragmented songs. Their bio claims that this EP took a mere 5 hours to write and record, so these songs are one or two parts max, never returning to a previous part. Wire managed to make a great album with songs like that, and The Whirlwind Heat succeed on a lesser level.

Opener "The Bone" lures the listener into a false sense of security, because after the next cut, "The Meat Packers", takes off into spazz-dom the album does not let up until the last track, the surprising drum-less ballad "Lazy Morning." Both of the bookend songs are unfortunately short, while others like the sloppy hip-hop tracks "No Gums" and "H is O" benefit from the short length, because while they are funny and cool you wonder if they would remain as powerful in 3 minute form. Another unexpected turn occurs in "The Mufflers", which starts out slow and sludgy, then with a hi-hat count-off, takes off into early 80's style hardcore. However, my favorite track may be the dancey instrumental "Ice-Nine", but it's hard to say. As I listen and write this, I hear something to write about but barely get a sentence down before the song is over.

Another interesting note is that the band was the first signing to Jack White's Third Man imprint, after impressing him live. And though this EP is on Dim Mak, their previous release was a full length, Do Rabbits Wonder? put out on the new label. Vocalist Dave Swanson said of Do Rabbits Wonder?: "Left on our own, we would probably do an album all in one take, but Jack really pushes us to give it our best." I guess Jack didn't intervene on Flamingo because these sure do sound like first takes, but that is what's great about it. I'm guessing the 13 color-titled songs on the full-length are a bit longer than these, but probably no less energetic.

Whirlwind Heat hits a ton of bases in ten minutes- spazz-rock, grunge-sludge-rock, hip-hop, dance-pop, hardcore, and even balladry-and while the immediacy and excitement of the songs is great, some tracks are obviously not the songs they could have been. Perhaps an album of more developed songs with a few 1-minute ditties thrown in would be optimal for the group. Nevertheless, I must give this a good score just for its uniqueness and energy.