Review Summary: So what, you make me hard..VIII
In the spring of 1989, the still-raw, klutzy and punk scum-caked Cincinnati outfit Afghan Whigs became one of the only non-Midwestern acts signed by Sub Pop, the label then only beginning to gather alternative heavies, utterly unaware how in just a few years, they would become the most important pipeline of college rock to American Youth. The Whigs, even in their more brimstone, howling beginnings were still comparatively tame to the label’s roster, already showing a knack for small nuance and odd turns, something that in the coming decades would ensure their catalogue ageing far more gracefully than their tour- and now-labelmates. Up In It
was the first time they’d registered on the radar of anyone except niche critics and Eastern Seaboard college introverts, the LP’s single “Retarded” charting modestly and elbowing its way into small station rotation. Dulli was yet to settle his feet firmly and lock into the groove that would then carry him with rarely-straying quality all the way through to 2017’s In Spades
, and so the band’s sound thrashes every which way here; early RnB vocal affectations, melodic breaks, punkish bass and hammy 80’s bridge solos sometimes all colliding in one three-minute stretch. When it sticks the landing, like on the frenetic “Hey Cuz” or the grouchy post-punkisms of “Sammy” and “I Am the Sticks,” the Whigs’ early prowess becomes self-evident, sparkling gutter-rock that wasn’t afraid to wander away from the post-hardcore mindset that was still smashing around guitar music’s underground brigades. The album on the whole is a thorny mess, but one that should only serve to stoke the interest of anyone who’d ever gotten a group of musicians together and tried to make something happen – it’s a highly sloppy and giddily unostentatious little trip, a young band excited to be together, touring and working. “Retarded” (which figures on the band’s retrospective and still sneaks its way into their sets) aside, the pretty doom of “You My Flower” is the true highlight of Up In It
, a melodic and fuzzy love plea, and the closest the Whigs skirt here to the sound that would soon become their inimitable calling card. From decidedly humble beginnings to equally unassuming present, the sordid, unbashful endurance of Dulli and the Afghan Whigs gets an early snapshot in Up In It
’s dazed stagger, a record that anyone who’s ever fancied themselves a 90’s scenester needs in their vinyl crate.