The Afghan Whigs In Spades
The Afghan Whigs set out in the late 80’s and early 90’s to create a sound all to themselves. The Cincinnati-based band was quickly scooped up by Sub-Pop Records and shoved into the ocean of “alternative” bands with the major-labels looking for the next Nirvana and Pearl Jam. But there was something a little different about The Afghan Whigs. Led by the devilishly charismatic lead vocalist Greg Dulli, the Whigs put out a succession of albums, including the now classic Gentleman and follow-up Black Love, that infused jangly guitars with a 60s Motown and R&B feel. The passion of the music came through in Dulli’s sometimes off-key vocals, and the piano that circled the tempo of the song oozing a dark, but sexy, aura to their records.
The band originally broke up in 2001 with some one-off shows played here and there until they reformed in 2012 to the surprise of their fans. The new incarnation of the band released 2014’s excellent Due to the Beast and toured, going so far as to perform as pop-star Usher’s backing band at 2013 SXSW. Which brings us to the Afghan Whigs newest record In Spades, a collection of songs that are what make the Whigs such a great band.
In Spades seems like the place where the Whigs would have gone if they would have stayed together. A natural progression beginning with the wispy, a-capella / orchestral “Birdland”, an almost doo-wop of a song with Dulli’s passion blanketed all over. “Arabian Heights” offers a blast of drums with a chord progression that makes you want to move. The band’s first single off the record “Demon In Profile” checks the box of piano sadness blooming into one of those jangly guitar driven bangers. “Toy Automatic”, and “Oriole” both will be on a nostalgic-style playlist sometime soon. “Light As a Feather” melds some of the best plastic-soul with Dulli’s raspy voice, and sing along chorus. “I Got Lost” slows it down a bit with a chorus of backing vocals penetrating a swirling barroom piano. Album closer “Into the Floor” is classic Afghan Whigs, full of drama, passion, and sex with a pinch of guilt. In Spades is one of the better full albums I’ve heard in a while, and well worth the time to take the journey.