Saw this great work over at Lost In E Minor. Really beautiful illustration work.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The underrated band of the week is the magnificent, (drum roll please)....Afghan Whigs. This is a band that is also very close to my heart, and have been the soundtrack to my life at various times.
Led by the charismatic Greg Dulli (vocals, guitar) the band formed in Cinncinatti, Ohio in 1986 and floated around before calling it quits for good in 2001. The group split because the members were split around the country, not because of any major falling out. This gives me hope that they will get back together, especially following the release of Unbreakable, their greatest hits package which unveiled two incredible new tracks (I'm A Soldier and Magazine). Usually the added tracks on greatest hits packages are for fan's only, but these two are fantastic.
Anyway, they made several albums of their own particular brand of ragged beauty throughout the 1990's. In an era of grunge self-loathing sprung from Sonic Youth and punk, the Whigs were way out of step, evolved from Motown and originality. Much of this was due to the truly unique songwriting of Greg Dulli. No other songwriter has explored the dark side of male/femaile relationships like Dulli has - with a frankness not seen before that was different, not self loathing but honest. Dulli was never afraid to make himself look like the bad guy in these songs, and often there was an element of noir to the atmosphere and titles.
1992's Congregation set the table, full of intense, atmospheric songs with an air of mystery like Turn On The Water, I'm Her Slave, Kiss The Floor, and Tonight. Their most popular album followed in 1993 - Gentlemen. Gentlemen is not for the faint of heart - this is the proverbial "dark night of the soul" that Neil Young's Tonight's The Night and Ryan Adam's Love Is Hell previously explored, but the difference is that the protagonist of Gentlemen is not a victim, he is often the perpetrator. This is a very different viewpoint, and one that Dulli owns. Gentlemen is packed with classics - Gentlemen, Be Sweet, Debonair, When We Two Parted, I Keep Coming Back, and the epic What Jail Is Like.
But my favorite Afghan Whigs album is the bleak, film noir opus Black Love. Black Love was initially intended as a concept album, and the remnants of that concept are clearly evident on epic opener Crime Scene, Pt. 1.
Prior to this album's release, lead singer Greg Dulli seriously explored producing a movie in the film noir genre, but despite his optioning at least one book, in the end the movie was never made, and Dulli's ideas for a sound track led to the songs recorded on this album.
Black Love is also stocked with classics like My Enemy, Double Day, Step Into the Light, and Honky's Ladder, but Dulli saves the best for last. There are a pair of epics to close the record - Summer's Kiss and Faded (both songs clock in at over 7 minutes). Both songs are spawling without being boring, and reach ecstatic and moving emotional and transcendant musical peaks. Both are extremely powerful, heavy hitting songs. Summer's Kiss also features one of my favorite lines ever - "put on your old fur coat baby cuz it's 1973".
1965 followed in 1998. While being a very good album featuring a clutch of brilliant songs - Somethin' Hot, Crazy, The Slide Song, and the moving 66 - the overall tone is not as atmospheric as Black Love and not as fever pitch as Gentlemen. It seems a little distant in terms of songwriting. And this is how the great Whigs went out.
Dulli went on to form the incredible Twilight Singers, who have put together a ton of classic material in a short period of time, as well as working with Mark Lanegan in the Gutter Twins side project. It seems that anything Dulli touches turns to gold.
Do yourself a favor and check them out - they will always hold a place in my heart.