Volume 94, Issue 91
Wednesday, March 14, 2001
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
The Afghan Whigs
One of the finest rock bands of the last two decades announced they were breaking up last month, but chances are you didn't hear about it.
Despite releasing a series of brilliant albums in the 1990s and honing a fantastic live show, the Afghan Whigs were never able to garner the success they deserved.
Led by the talented Greg Dulli, the Afghan Whigs played a blend of guitar heavy alternative rock and soulful rhythm and blues to give them a distinct sound. Every one of their albums and EPs are worth investigating, and the best place to start is their major label debut, 1993's Gentlemen.
After a stint on the Sub Pop label, they blossomed artistically with Gentlemen. Over the course of 12 tracks, Dulli and company rip through ballsy rockers, slow jams and intricately arranged pieces that display the entire range of both the band's musicianship and Dulli's songwriting.
The closest thing the Afghan Whigs ever had to a hit song, "Debonair," is a striking number with a propulsive groove, chiming guitars and Dulli's growling vocals. The lyrics are also wonderful, and feature chilling lines like "Tonight I go to Hell/For what I've done to you/This ain't about regret/It's when I tell the truth."
This sentiment sums up the theme of the entire album. Written in the aftermath of a bad breakup, the songs on Gentlemen see Dulli reflecting on the relationship and adding up all that what went wrong. Dulli uncharacteristically comes off as a sensitive, wounded individual. His honesty is refreshing and at times, as in the song "When We Two Parted."
Musically, Gentlemen delivers the goods in mass quantities. "Be Sweet" is a highlight, with its jazzy, stop-start rhythm and soaring lead guitar. Other standouts include "What Jail Is Like," featuring some fantastic piano work and a strong melody, and "I Keep Coming Back," the traditional soul ballad that allows Dulli to let loose. The album's best is "Brother Woodrow/Closing Prayer," a suite-like instrumental that is absolutely breathtaking.
It's a shame more people weren't exposed to the Afghan Whigs, but all may not be lost. In the aftermath of the band's breakup, Dulli announced his intention to continue with his side project, the Twilight Singers, on a full-time basis.
Responsible for one of 2000's best albums, it's always possible the Twilight Singers' more accessible but just as brilliant music will find a large-scale audience, diverting some posthumous attention to the Afghan Whigs. Take a listen, and cross your fingers while you're at it.
Aaron St. John
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