William Elliott Whitmore
Animals in the Dark
William Elliott Whitmore’s fourth album (and major label debut), Animals in the Dark kicks off with what will likely be the most divisive track in his catalog: “Mutiny.” The call and response chant cribs lyrics from both Dr. Dre and The Bloodhound Gang, rides a wave of a militant snare, and will either be viewed as the welcome emergence of the artist’s sense of humor or evidence that even the best songwriters falter. But more than that, “Mutiny” establishes the anti-government arc of the album with an extended metaphor about taking a the ship from a (power-) drunk captain.
The polemic trend extends with an indictment of crooked cops on live favorite “Johnny Law,” a denouncement of Uncle Sam on the familial narrative “Hard Times Made Us,” and the rollicking, country-shuffle “Old Devils” decries oppressive government. Anywhere Whitmore has seen power abused, he has called it out.
Yet Animals in the Dark avoids the major pitfalls of a political album. Firstly, Whitmore keeps things general. All of his grievances could be registered during any administration, merely apply his language to your particular quagmire. He also maintains a degree of levity. Specifically, the boisterous “Johnny Law,” which is flush with humorous, anti-establishment rabble-rousing. Ultimately, and maybe most importantly, Whitmore gives us all hope. Specifically the hope that lies within the individual to rise above the muck and mire.
The best example of this hope is found on “Who Stole the Sole.” After Whitmore bemoans the sapping of the arts and the silencing of dissenting voices, he pulls back from the pain as his guitar and a cello build to a crescendo then Whitmore sighs, “I got back that spark / from inside of me / And I can finally breathe / hear the shuffle of my dancing feet.”