The Whales

“Marguerite” – The Whales

Short and enticing, “Marguerite” chugs along in a semi-garage-y world of droning sound with the enticing addition of some time signature complication: the song’s 4/4 momentum is given knowing little tugs by some well-placed 6/4 measures. A little of this goes a long way to my ears, as it indicates first and foremost that someone is paying attention, that there is some vivid musical creativity at work. No offense to groove-oriented music (maybe) but personally I am less convinced of musical artistry via what are essentially decorations (i.e., interesting sounds layered on top of a beat); I am more impressed with a creative intelligence that can work at the structural level. I mean, there’s choosing a paint color or two and there’s architecture, right? Not everyone operates at the same depth and that’s completely fine. I’m just saying…well, what am I saying? I seem to have digressed.

Oh and then there’s the subject matter, which is offbeat and refreshing, as “Marguerite” turns out to be about the French writer Marguerite Yourcenar, the first woman elected to the Académie française. (In the U.S. Yourcenar is probably best known for the 1951 novel Mémoires d’Hadrien.) As I sit with this song over repeated listens, I’m getting more and more of a Kinks vibe, but in the very best way—not a slavish homage but an intriguing contemporizing of the band’s mid-’60s drive, some elusive amalgam of horsepower and brainpower that gives, in my mind, the best rock’n’roll from any era its appeal and staying power.

The Whales are a six-piece band from the UK formed in 2013, about which not a lot of information is readily discoverable (blame in part the generic name). “Marguerite” is available via an admirable project: the British label Fat Cat Records has an ongoing SoundCloud page where it makes available as free downloads the best demos it receives, acknowledging that they simply don’t have the resources to sign every band that sends in a good song. You can visit the Fat Cat demo page here. Thanks to the Powerpopulist blog for the head’s up on the song.