From Roscoe, New York, US, The Whistles are back at it with a pandemic-inspired album named Blow Us. The 9-track compilation thunders on both existential and physical matters in a sophisticated way conveying the true meaning in several layers of comedy, uplifting vocals, and two interludes. The husband and wife duo pull themselves into a grunge folk concoction casting significance over DIY projects that last longer than 3 songs. As per The Whistles admission: “We were stuck inside the first year and a half, slowly losing our minds, and we began crafting Blow Us in a very much organic manner. It starts off with an Irish drinking song about Terrence’s great-great-uncle Francis coming over on the Titanic, which is true by the way; a cover of the Vera Lynn classic “We’ll Meet Again“; a funky, laid-back version of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla“; a magically grungy cover of The Kinks’ “Father Christmas”; and we summarize the journey with parting ways with our Tiny House in Ossining, where we recorded most of the album.”
1. Uncle Francis
The irrefragable Irish tone is probably as much of a first for you as it was for us. We’ve never heard songs like this written and produced in 2022. Or 2020. Or 2010. But it all makes sense when you hear Terrence singing the verse:
“Well, great-grandma Minnie Dugan/ And my great-great-uncle Frank/ Came over to America on a famous boat that sank/ The pride and joy of the White Star Line, unsinkable so they said/ But thousands of people got on the Titanic and most of them wound up dead!” We know, we know. That last part was sung with so much joviality that you had to do a double-take at the lyrics 😀 The Whistles got this knack for approaching their subjects with lightheartedness and lively tunes despite it being some pretty dark story. Read on and you’ll marvel at the real-life story behind Uncle Francis.
“Go down Uncle Francis/ Titanic be your grave/ But thanks to you Great Nana Minnie Dugan’s life was saved/ Go down Uncle Francis/ Awful sorry that you died/ But not before you chucked Great-Nana Minnie o’er the side,” follows the rather sticky hook of the record. The voices of the two singers blend exceptionally warm and lively thus entertaining the imagination of the public to a point of imagining the entire scene.
“His name was Francis Duggan. We know the story because his sister, Minnie Duggan, the one he chucked over the side into a lifeboat, was my great-grandmother. Had she not survived I wouldn’t be here, so thanks Uncle Francis… Awfully sorry you’re at the bottom of the Atlantic,” shares Terrence for Blue Rhymez Entertainment. The impersonal delivery of the news with a touch of comedy brings about “better you than me” vibes except this time it’s better my uncle than my nana. Understandable. It’s her progeny singing!
The next verse is Netflix material: “Now folks below in steerage/ Were banned from the upper deck/ But they got drunk that fateful night and decided what the heck/ They snuck on up to the top of the boat/ Just in time to see/ A big old f*ckin’ iceberg hit the bow/ Oh glory be!” Ladies and gents, that’s what you call being a savage songwriter.
For being an Irish folk song, aka the furthest possible from mainstream tendencies and preferences, Uncle Francis is on the upper end of mixing and mastering. The instruments patiently fill their spaces without interfering with one another and the voices are working together to fill the room without overlapping. Bonus points for clear diction and creative lyrics.
With the last verse summarizing the entire ordeal, the first song of Blow Us comes to an end. Uncle Francis is a great opening track for it shows the creative fearlessness The Whistles employ at full throttle.
2. Dr. Corona’s Quarantine-In-A-Bottle
Packing 2 years in one minute and 36 seconds was impossible until Wendy and Terrence came together to make it happen.
Wendy starts with a much-known message: “With the current global pandemic of the deadly virus COVID-19, we all need to do our part and stay inside, alone.” If we caught you rolling your eyes, don’t worry! Terrence shoots with a counter reply: “But if like me, you suffer from a deep disdain of authoritarian control and the concept of a government-mandated quarantine makes you want to run outside screaming, you should try Dr. Corona’s Quarantine in a Bottle.” 😀 You see? This unexpected turn of conversation, this setup of having you think you’ll hear the same ol’ same only to realize seconds after you were wrong, is what makes Wendy and Terrence special. They’re not just singers or songwriters. They’re performers with an abundance of layers to their craft.
Wendy then completely rips the systems apart having you feel like you just found your long-lost mother: “Dr. Corona’s Quarantine in a Bottle has everything you need to comply with orders which you know violate your constitutional right to peacefully assemble, but still you feel like you should follow given everything you’ve learned from all the independent scientific research you were forced to do on infectious disease control since our dysfunctional, science-denying federal administration full of narcissists and sociopaths has abandoned us all to die.”
“Dr. Corona’s Quarantine in a Bottle’s patented formula contains a unique blend of cannabinoids, methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine, and lysergic acid diethylamide to address all your isolation-induced ailments,” adds Terrence. Now here we had to ask what’s up with the extremely specific substance formulas! “Cannabinoids refer to the chemicals that make up cannabis. Methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine (MDMA) is also known as ecstasy. Lysergic acid diethylamide is LSD (acid.) This combination of drugs can actually go horribly awry and would not recommend for inexperienced users, but if you’re stuck inside with nothing to do and plenty of time to recover… Probably still don’t do it.” Note taken! Take drugs SEPARATELY. 😀
With a tad more detail, the speech ends on TikTok-worthy confessions: “Warning: Dr. Corona’s Quarantine in a Bottle may cause flashbacks, binge-eating, and binge-watching. May uncover repressed childhood trauma. Not recommended for people who have to do things. Do not operate heavy machinery, or literally anything else while taking Dr. Corona’s Quarantine in a Bottle.” Gen Z, are y’all feeling seen by now?
3. We’ll Meet Again
Terrence and Wendy are by the way, f*cking awesome. After a lesson in vintage Pop Culture, the two encourage the audience to watch a certain movie: “We’ll Meet Again was very popular around World War II. We recorded it last year because the Queen of England recommended people remember the song as a means to comfort themselves during the lockdown, which we thought was hilarious. If you watch the movie Dr. Stranglove, the song plays at the end over a montage of nuclear explosions, which is how Terrence was first introduced to it. If you haven’t seen that film, you must. Classic Kubrick.”
Wendy does have this predisposition in her vocal range for vintage records. The woman sounds like she’s time-traveled to get to us (for which we are deeply grateful). In a most gracious manner, the singer beautifully renders justice to the original and draws the listener further in: “We’ll meet again/ Don’t know where/ Don’t know when/ But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day/ Keep smiling through/ Just like you always do/ ‘Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.”
Since we know the two spouses have recreated the instrumental from scratch, one must applaud the multi-faceted talent needed to make this album happen. It’s one thing to sing, and another entirely to compose, produce, and polish.
The supporting voice of Terrence serves as a nice, comfy buffer to the higher-pitched soprano Wendy. If the original featured a whole choir of male voices in the second part of the record, by using just one the cover becomes the personal version of We’ll Meet Again.
“So will you please say hello/ To the folks that I know/ Tell them I won’t be long/ They’ll be happy to know/ That as you saw me go/ I was singing this song,” kick the lyrics in the feels. The song sprinkles nostalgia and melancholy if you think that it was the tune of many soldiers who never came back from their last mission. As for the queen… We’re not happy and we’re not singing this song to feel better. We’re not looking to be heroes in a cause we didn’t choose to fight in. Probably the very bit that made The Whistles chuckle. High five.
Wendy is the primary entertainer on track 3 and performs with a passionate dedication to the original every moment of We’ll Meet Again. The song also serves as a slight disruptor from the more sarcastic tone The Whistles are known for. These two know what they’re doing and they’re advancing eagerly to gain your favor.
“I believe Godzilla is an elemental being sent by nature to keep balance on earth by halting the destructive technological advances of mankind… with stompies and fire burps,” shocks Terrence with his view on track number 4. It’s very clear by now, that whatever you think you understood with The Whistles, you don’t know the full picture until you talk to the two artists. The conversations in their house must be otherworldly!
The original song dates all the way back to 1977 and it has an undeniable Rock core to it. The Whistles’ version is much more relaxed steadily relying on the energy the voices of Terrence and Wendy bring and not so much on the music. The instrumental is of course vital to the appeal of the new Godzilla but it’s secondary to the singers’ weight on the record.
We thank The Whistles for the revival of the late ’70s gem: “With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound/ He pulls the spitting high tension wires down/ Helpless people on a subway train/ Scream bug-eyed as he looks in on them/ He picks up a bus and he throws it back down/ As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town.” Seriously, how did these two pull off sounding like an entire choir? Their voices, extraordinarily well synced, roar with a mannerism reminding us of Pink Floyd’s A Brick In The Wall part 2.
The Funk music gets softened out by the flute around the midsection of Godzilla and confers a perpetual ride of emotions and acoustic experiences to the album. You just never know with The Whistles. They might hit you with a guitar riff or with a shocking speech. Whatever they throw at you though, has the effect of high-quality cannabis: the more you take in, the better you feel. Don’t ask how we know.
The duo helps augment the sonic elements of their Godzilla rendition with the deep, loud ad-libs especially around the hook: “Oh no, they say, he’s got to go/ Go go Godzilla, yeah/ Oh no, there goes Tokyo/ Go go Godzilla, yeah/ Oh no, they say he’s got to go/ Go go Godzilla, yeah.”
The clearest pop-to-real-life culture transfer takes place towards the end of the record: “History shows, again and again,/ How nature points out the folly of men/ Godzilla.”
Godzilla brings some fierce excitement to the table after the cocktail of Irish music, pandemic speeches, and a WW2 song. The Whistles are pushing the buttons and we’re watching up close to see how far they’re willing to go on Blow Us.
5. The Waterburg Chapel Suite
And we’re back to a mood similar to Uncle Francis. “Meet me at the Waterburg Chapel/ The Neighbors they’ll leave us alone/ If you just can’t be bothered, for a few hundred dollars/ You can stay here ’til you have to go home,” merrily sing the two artists. The best part is knowing that the song is yet again one of those masterpieces based on real-life events.
“This song is a collection of funny, short smaller songs we recorded on a 4-track in a spooky old church we slept in called “The Waterburg Chapel Suite” and Wendy got really sick from drinking the water there. And I wrote ‘my bagel’s on fire’ after my bagel had actually caught on fire in the toaster,” recounts Terrence for us. Stay tuned to discover the bagel by the way.
The cheerful mood turns comedic after the two disclose in great detail the walls and then the more particular conditions of the chapel: “Hope you won’t change your mind/ Once you inspect and find/ That the bathroom is missing a door.” And to make it perfect: “Oh won’t you get closer to me at the Waterburg Chapel/ I guess you’ll be hearing me pee at the Waterburg Chapel.” The unapologetic chapel ode does flaunt earworm qualities and you might catch yourself humming along to the first snippet.
The second song is… well… unique! “When the tub is full, but it’s only lukewarm/ And the water smells like a fart/ Stinky warm bath, I ain’t takin’ you/ Stinky warm bath, I ain’t takin’ you/ Stinky warm bath, I ain’t takin you/ I guess I’ll go make some art.” And art it is when the acoustic guitar has you thinking it will be a romantic piece and it’s… stinky water instead. Good singing nonetheless and Wendy’s laughter is movie material.
The 3rd snippet will make you hungry as a wholesome ASMR session ensues. “My bagel’s on fire!/ Oh no!/ Put it out! Put it out!/ Oh no!” scream both Wendy and Terrence. This unity that goes from speaking, singing, to now screaming together reflects and multiplies the real-life connection between the two spouses. And yes, this is what the singer was talking about in the beginning.
“To all the ghosts in the spooky old church/ If you like what we’re playin’ make some noise/ To all the ghosts in the spooky old church/ If you like what we’re playing make some noise,” goes on a loop the 4th and last snippet pertaining to track 5 on Blow Us. However, the variations in the responses from the ghosts are pretty creative and prevent boredom with the repeating lyrics.
The Waterburg Chapel Suite might have you inclined to think you’ll hear out a Broadway-infused piece but you discover 4 different scenarios each structured in a vastly different way than the others thus cementing The Whistles’ X factor.
“Hey you! Isolation got you down? Do you feel like things couldn’t possibly be any worse? Try ants! They’re already in your bathroom! Why are there ants in the bathroom? Ants will provide you with an easily defeatable nemesis that keeps coming back again and again and again. Squish ’em! Poison ’em! Lure them into tiny plastic octagons of death! Read them poetry! Tell them jokes! Lie on the floor and let them crawl all over you ’til you’re one with the colony! Do whatever you want! They’re your ants! Just throw some food on the floor, leave it there and wait for the magic to begin! Kick your isolation up a notch. Get some ants today!” We gotta say… Marina Abramovic would be proud of this little ritual.
Yup, the husband and wife duo had to murder literal ants: “Wendy saw them first. The final six months at Tiny House were spent murdering ants that came up through cracks in the foundation. It was relentless, and it drove us even more insane than we already were.”
At a closer look, if we can use that terminology, the ant speech can go much beyond initial impressions. All humans got a nemesis that keeps peaking its ugly head throughout life be it health issues that seem manageable yet are always there waiting to creep on you, or a shady past you defeated but can still interfere with your current life. Succumbing to the ants could very well portray succumbing to the pressure of the last two years and becoming a paranoid lunatic, which let’s face it, many of those we know became IT.
The Whistles don’t leave anything to chance. Even on rants about ants, they pack a bunch and then some in the simplest of words. We can stop calling them musicians. They’re those cool art people who seem eccentric and outrageous but when you listen they make more sense than your self-help go-to book.
Terrence calls it “our unhinged Hip-Hop Halloween song.” Let’s see if the description meets reality.
“Boo a ghost just came out of a pumpkin/ Halloween/ Up in the graveyard all the corpses be krumpin’/ Halloween/ A lumpy Mummy bumpin’ beats while he’s slumpin’/ Halloween/ This haunted house is jumpin’/ Must be Halloween or somethin’/ Halloween,” kicks off the 7th track. We can all appreciate the ghost impersonation in the Halloween elongation. Pretty neat detail.
Terrence without any hesitation tries his Rap pants on: “I got my candy bucket/ I got my bag o’ tricks/ I got my scary face and multi-color glowy sticks/ I got my holy water/ I got my wooden stake/ I got some garlic and a bag of mushrooms Imma take.” One can immediately visualize the late ’80s early ’90s urban clothing style and the huge boomboxes being carried around when hearing the Boom Bap style instrumental. And we’ll give Terrence an A for effort but this is the only time when he sounds a tad out of his element. Enjoyable? Absolutely! especially when you think of the other songs we’ve just heard and how dynamic the singer’s versatility is. And peep Wendy’s hype woman ad-libs in the background! That girl is on fire!
Despite Terrence not being a professional Hip Hop artist he understood the assignment when it comes to a cool flow and amped up swag: “Werewolves everywhere where is the werewolf?/ There! Where? He’s over there/ There is the werewolf/ Witches are witchin’ broom. Boom!/ The full moon is glowin’/ Halloween got it goin’ on.” With some breathing practice, he could catch the comeback of Boom Bap Rap!
Terrence’s zest for this song though is enough in itself to fill the expectations of the public. The lyricism peaks in entertainment value right around here: “I got my trick or treat/ I got my smelly feet/ I got a dozen eggs if you don’t give me something sweet/ I got my silver bullet/ I got my crucifix/ I got this doobie Imma smoke and do some goofy sh*t.”
The ambitious and adorned proposition of Hip Hop by The Whistles on Halloween proves the commitment of the duo to ace all genres from unexplored angles and simultaneously sparks fun scenarios via the visual minutiae contained in the lyrics.
8. Father Christmas
Another 1977-based cover. We’re starting to see a pattern here! The Kinks are the ones who first created the original named Father Christmas.
The intro is artistically organized with the Christmassy bells encased in lavish production and positive spirits. The alarming noise and Grunge Rock buildup are totally transformed by the arrival of the unison of voices between Wendy and Terrence: “When I was small, I believed in Santa Claus/ Though I knew it was my dad/ And I would hang up my stockings at Christmas/ Open my presents and I’d be glad.” The instruments still sound badass but now they got a home feeling attached to them. The cause and effect of two happily married, ridiculously artistic individuals.
As the lyrics unravel the situation to be a case of Santa being mugged, the chorus is embalmed in a strange realism: “They said, “Father Christmas, give us the money/ Don’t mess around with those silly toys/ We’ll beat you up if you don’t hand it over/ We want your bread so don’t make us annoyed/ Give all the toys to the little rich boys“.” Good thing they put out the song in 1977 because it would get banned in 2022. Let’s hope the cover of The Whistles survives the foolery of the 21st century.
Wendy and Terrence can’t possibly ever conceive singing in an angry, irritated, or generally negative tone. The duo is as exuberant as they get whether they’re talking about death, memories, funny chapels, burning bagels, or getting mugged. Don’t you just wanna be friends with them? I think we all do.
The serious connotations of this record are made apparent when the mugging kids ask for a very reasonable yet saddening wish: “But give my daddy a job ’cause he needs one/ He’s got lots of mouths to feed/ But if you’ve got one, I’ll have a machine gun/ So I can scare all the kids down the street.”
To undertake a song as complex as the 1977’s Father Christmas by the Kinks, you either need tough skin or you must have lived a tough life yourself. By leaving space for interpretation, we’ll never know if The Whistles had a personal connection with the cover or if it was a cool song to add to the mix.
9. Big Love Tiny House
“We lived at Tiny House for about 4 years. It was our first place outside of New York City together. It was kind of where we really dialed in our musical act for the first time. It was great at the time, but compared to The Party Farm, it was cramped, and it was a rental. Now we’ve got a massive art lab and things are only going to get bigger and better. Big love to Tiny House, but we’re good where we are,” share The Whistles.
Indeed. Listening to the 9th and last song off the album evokes emotions different than the ones preceding Big Love Tiny House. To begin with, the music only commences at 10 seconds in. A sort of silence before the last act. What a powerful move without saying or doing anything extra to crystalize the emotional value of this song.
The melancholic guitar charms the room and pulls in the audience to bid farewell to Tiny House along with The Whistles: “Goodbye Tiny House/ You’ve been such a house/ We made a home in you and now we’re leaving Sing-sing/ All our stuff is here/ But we’re packing it in boxes/ Our darkest winter yet is finally ending.” Why are we even surprised that the melodic base of the lyrics is anything but linear? 😀 Wendy and Terrence couldn’t leave the last masterpiece untouched or privy of their sense of humor thus at rather irregular intervals the two add major emphasis to words and break the melody pattern before it has a chance to form.
After announcing the long-term intention of never returning, “And we are never coming back here/ But you’ll be always in our hearts,” the singers itch for explaining the downside of living in Tiny House as to prevent the audience from developing too much regret or affection towards the real estate piece: “Goodbye Tiny House/ Farewell front yard and backyard/ So long garage we weren’t allowed to put our stuff inside/ When we’re out of here/ Will you think of us?/ Do houses even think?/ That’s friggin’ nonsense.”
Everything that follows afterwards is very much a consciously composed outro boasting the voices of the artists with a progressive emphasis on Wendy’s higher notes. If you didn’t catch it in the first time, go for a second time. Even a third if you have to but do observe how gifted the woman is in hitting a high note, sustaining it, and smoothly ending it. Hands down, this is the most notable feature of Big Love Tiny House.
The Whistles have long understood how to instill their uniqueness in the firm joviality that transpires through the music and lyrics they craft. Blow Us (because whistles are blown) requires more attention and time investment from the fans of the duo but it is higher rewarding in surprise elements, cool stories, hilarious recounts, and spotless post-production. And you hear Terrence rap! Major applause.
Blow Us Credits: Terrence Brennan- vocals, guitar, keys, synth, melodica, harmonica, percussion, beats, kazoo, slide whistle, tin whistle, forks and knives, oven door; Wendy LaManque – vocals, flute, banjolele, kazoo, pots, and pans.
Written by Mariana Berdianu
Blue Rhymez Entertainment ©2022