Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Mission Control

Tight rock trio packs album with hooks but goes light on the meaning thing

Since ATO picked up their self-released Give 'Em All a Big Fat Lip in 2006, this Georgia trio has picked up enough gushing band comparisons to fill a whole review -- thirty years' worth. These hooky guys earn such compliments, especially singer-guitarist Parker Gispert. Where the debut signified pop by favoring Gispert's casually raspy drawl, this one signifies rock by favoring his lightly bluesy post-punk guitar -- and also hyperactive drummer Julian Dorio adding urgency to the well-tooled arrangements. But in each case, the attraction is hooks. Where many of the debut's songs boast memorable choruses, nearly every track here highlights a chunky riff you'll want to hear again. This is fabulous -- if the thing you crave is a band that evokes many other catchy bands and nothing more. But no one ever mentioned the debut's perfectly presentable lyrics because, with lyrics as with riffs, presentable is never enough. Here the lyrics continue presentable insofar as they're audible. But what they, the riffs or the Whigs mean, no one knows. That's how it is with hooks.

Rolling Stone, Dec. 13, 2007