The Afghan Whigs
In Spades


4.0
excellent

Review

by butcherboy USER (123 Reviews)
May 2nd, 2017 | 62 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You want love, but I still wanna f---

Taken out of time, Ted Demme’s 1996 rom-com Beautiful Girls is appropriately about a high school reunion. The film was a fairly low-key moment. Demme was yet to hit the public eye properly with Johnny Depp-led Blow, and was then mostly known as an unostentatious critical darling of vulgar romantic dirges, as well as Denis Leary’s controversial No Cure for Cancer stand-up special.

At surface value, Beautiful Girls flaunted all the calling cards of a Gen-X’er. Romantic existentialism, pretty downcast women and inept downcast men, and some damn good music to boot. But for all the pubescent implications that its genre carried, the movie’s characters looked older, more beaten, more prone to doom. Despite persistent comic tinges, it was a deeply melancholic film with some poignant dialogue, and during one pub scene, it featured a bar band playing the sort of middle-aged prom that small wintry towns seem to be so keen on. The lead singer of that band was a pudgy, sweaty mess, belting out Frederick Knight’s Be for Real, a wet forelock across his forehead, cheekily honest in his soulfulness, and as achingly depressive as his surroundings. The band were the Afghan Whigs, then riding out the success of 1993’s Gentlemen, newly-minted as the grunge era’s sultriest and perhaps most dejected group. And the sweating man was the band’s mastermind and principal songwriter, Greg Dulli.

One could say that the sound Dulli had found with the Whigs in the 90’s never quite left him. Through his six albums with the Twilight Singers, the one-off Lanegan collaboration as the Gutter Twins, and even his tepidly-received 2005 solo effort Amber Headlights, the operating set hasn’t wavered once. Dark, sordid, glossy R&B forged in the guitar yelp of white man’s blues. If anything, over the years he’d polished that formula to such a blinding shine, that seeing him do anything else would at this point border on self-made blasphemy.

In that sense, a Whigs reunion held little novelty for fans, aside from maybe seeing some old familiar faces straddle the stage alongside Dulli. That consistency has served him well. The Whigs’ first comeback, 2014’s Do to the Beast, may have walked all the recognizable tropes, but it didn’t feel neither as stiff nor as stale as most reunion efforts from the era’s giants have been. Now with In Spades, Dulli is making it clear that the Whigs’ new old union was not a singularity. There’s a new album, a new tour and that old baleful sway.

Dulli was never shy of caking songs in schmaltzy strings, and he doesn’t stand on ceremony here. Opener Birdland is all ambience and cello with Dulli’s trademark croon churning dirt over it. It announces early on that Spades is no tipping point. Just a bunch of old pros doing the old pro thing.

For a band that never quite rose past indie legend status, even at the cap of their halcyon days, the Whigs, and Dulli in particular, were always suckers for a grandiose punchy hook. When those big choruses hit the spot on Spades, like on the trumpet-laced Toy Automatic, the sublime I Got Lost, or the kitschily maudlin closer Into the Floor, it’s enough to make your feet leave the ground. Not all of it works however, and when it doesn’t, Dulli’s changelessness starts hindering him. The industrialized propulsion of first single Arabian Heights feels so clunky and dated, that by the time the chorus blasts off, it jogs right past artful schlock and straight into cliché. Copernicus kicks off with one of the catchiest and most immediate riffs Dulli has written since Bonnie Brae, but the song never manages to get above that first ardent thrust.

It’s difficult to see Dulli veer into the left field at this point. He was perhaps one of the only 90’s iconoclasts who truly flourished on a bigger label, fanning out his sound, growing bolder and more strident. The corner he’d carved for himself in the annals of indie music has comfortably carried him through the past twenty-five years. In Spades is a leaner, shorter affair than Do to the Beast, which at times works against it, making the misses feel more glaring than they would have otherwise. But for an album that’s neck-deep in a pre-established sound, Spades hits far more often than not, and much more potently that a band of this age and tenure can usually summon. Demon in Profile adds another swinging sinister piano-guitar hymnal to the Dulli cannon, and Light as a Feather is so deliriously seedy and danceable, it feels as though the Whigs haven’t aged at all.

It’s trite enough to call it a return to form for a band that never really lost it to begin with. However modest the scale, Dulli has endured, floating in and out of relative fashion as musical trends seesawed and cycled around him. The Whigs are now in the first stages of a promo tour for Spades, there’s reportedly another Gutter Twins album in the works, and one shouldn’t quite expect the Twilight Singers to vanish suddenly. A comeback? Hardly. Just call it another worthy notch on the bedpost of grunge’s sleaziest R&B white boy.



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user ratings (89)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
butcherboy
May 2nd 2017


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album is finally streaming! also, rating rose half a point higher in the three days I spent listening to it.. fantastically solid album..



Enjoy-



http://www.stereogum.com/1938212/stream-the-afghan-whigs-in-spades/music/album-stream/

cylinder
May 2nd 2017


1409 Comments


you got style man. you always set up your reviews with an actually original premise, i dig that so much. sometimes at first i'm like 'wait, how does this tie in,' but it always does. and i love the intermittent short paragraphs too. you are reliable.

as for this band, i've only heard Gentlemen, but i dig it enough. idk i guess they might be a little too 'sultry' for me, as you said. would it be wise to check their other stuff before this one?

Digging: Lapalux - Amnioverse

butcherboy
May 2nd 2017


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You're a gent, cylinder, that's very kind..



I'd say check Black Love and 1965, they're respectively their most dramatic and accessible records, so they should really prep you for all Dulli albums forever and ever..

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
May 2nd 2017


8850 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Super excited to finally give this a listen!

As I said before, great review

Digging: Vi Som Alskade Varandra Sa Mycket - Det Onda. Det Goda. Det Vackra. Det Fula.

Nrap
May 2nd 2017


419 Comments


Nice review. Have only played it once while doing some work but the last 3-4 songs seemed good.

butcherboy
May 2nd 2017


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cheers, guys!

Cygnatti
May 2nd 2017


32950 Comments


the single demon in profile was legit. decent rock music in 2017. who knew?

butcherboy
May 2nd 2017


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thank you for the feature!

Divaman
May 2nd 2017


4504 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I was hoping someone would get to this one. Glad to see it looks like a worthwhile album.

Digging: Deep Cut - Different Planet

verdant
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2017


2424 Comments


good shit man!

butcherboy
May 2nd 2017


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks, everyone..



diva, it's a damn good album.. I'm happy it grew on me so fast..

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 2nd 2017


32890 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

"Toy Automatic" is incredible



This is even better than Do To The Beast...

Digging: Abigail Williams - Walk Beyond The Dark

SandwichBubble
May 2nd 2017


10640 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'm cautious, but will check.



Also, 25 reviews already!

butcherboy
May 2nd 2017


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sowing - yea, I'm loving this.. sending me on a hell of a trip back down their catalog.. dulli keeps pulling new tricks out of his formula, it's incredible



sandwich - it's a beauty of a record.. can't stop writing.. hahaha

Dedes
May 2nd 2017


6799 Comments


You're really pushing out these reviews man. I admire the devotion.

butcherboy
May 2nd 2017


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Been in a writing mood for a while.. Cheers, dude

grandfather
May 2nd 2017


161 Comments


Yeah this review rules. Can't wait to give this a listen

butcherboy
May 2nd 2017


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks very much, dude!

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2017


2784 Comments


Beautiful Girls is one of my favourites!!! and yeah fucking stellar review, i was going to politely recuse myself off this one but you've caused me to reconsider, a successful review if ever there was one

Digging: Burial - Tunes 2011 to 2019

butcherboy
May 2nd 2017


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

cheers, Wine, glad I could sway you a bit into giving this a go.. and hell yes! beautiful girls is a fantastic movie..



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