The Afghan Whigs



January 14th, 2005 | 86 replies

Release Date: 1993 | Tracklist

Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen
Released 1993.
Elektra Records.

Greg Dulli - Vocals, Guitar
Rick McCollum - Guitar
John Curley - Bass
Stevie Earle - Drums

If I told you this album was a forgotten and under-rated masterpeice, would you take any notice?

Probably not, because it happens a lot on the internet. Everyone seems to have one album that they love to pieces, and yet, nobody else has heard of. This is mine. It's a concept album, revolving around men's failures in relationships. It's an intense, emotional, cutting listening experience, set off by some excellent guitar work and even better song writing by Greg Dulli, a unique and sorely under-valued talent.

It truly baffles me that Afghan Whigs never achieved mainstream success, because I've yet to play this album to anyone who doesn't like it. From what I gather though, this album, and the single Debonair, was as close as they came.

To describe the music of Afghan Whigs is no easy task. They're one of those bands that somehow sound like countless things you've heard before, and yet sound utterly unique and fresh. They owe just as much debt to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye as they do to Pearl Jam and The Pixies. They're funky, grungey, soulful, angular, and they rock. Hard. You could come up 'band-meets-band' sums for them all day. Nirvana meets Average White Band. Alice In Chains meets Nina Simone. And, direct from Launch, Smokey Robinson meets Aerosmith. But, of course, you won't sum them up that easily. It might help display their uniqueness if I told you they were the first act from outside Seattle to sign to Sub-Pop.

A key feature of the band is the guitars. The riffs here are unlike anything in my collection. The interplay between the guitarists during most of the riffs is stunning. The nearest comparison I can think of is At The Drive-In - and, by extension, The Mars Volta. It does mean that most of the riffs are unplayable to bedroom guitarists with only 2 hands, but that all serves to make the music seem that little bit more untouchable.

Greg Dulli's songs provide the perfect foil to ride over the top of this jerky, funky backing - and on the slower tracks, to ride over a more mellow, wistful backing too. His songwriting may not twist tongues or leave layer upon layer of flowery poetry to dissect, but it goes direct and true to the things that matter - your heart, your mind, and that quick-forming lump in your throat. (And on a couple of tracks, the tear ducts, too.) Some choice examples?
"Every night I spent, in that bed, with your face in the wall. If I could have only once heard you scream, to feel you alive instead of watching you abandon me...." Taken from the more mellow When We Two Parted.

"Think I'm scared of girls? Well, maybe, but I'm not afriad of you. Wanna scare me? Then you'll cling to me, no matter what I do...." The piano-driven What Jail Is Like.

"Ladies, let me tell you about myself. I've got a dick for a brain....and my brain is gonna sell my ass to you." That's the attention-grabbing and awkwardly-funny opening lines of Be Sweet.
I could go on, but it'll make the review unnecessarily long. The point is, Dulli is a skilled chronicler of both the breakdown of relationships, and the causes of them. He ranks as one of the best songwriters in the world on the evidence of this on Black Love. And I find it hard to comprehend that some people find him annoying (a view I've seen expressed quite a few times on the web).

Highlights? There's What Jail Is Like, with some great piano and a melody that suggests Bends-era Radiohead covering The Calling's Wherever You Will Go, plus some of the album's best lyrics, as quoted above. There's Be Sweet, which ruminates on male idiocy in the face of temptation, and then explodes into a killer riff. And My Curse, sung by Marcy Mays of Scrawl....

That last paragraph could easily have been 3 or 4 times that length. Though Black Love may rock harder, and be more accessible, this is the sort of record that gets inside you and never quite goes away; the sort of album you'll beginning quoting when reminiscing on things you've done wrong in the past. In short, YOU NEED THIS ALBUM.


Recommended Downloads -
What Jail Is Like

The centrepoint of the album, and lyrically, the best song here. Mainly piano-driven, and grand in scope (as I mentioned before, think The Bends), this is one of Dulli's most confessional songs (Think I'm proud of this? Well, maybe, but the shame, it never leaves....), and probably the one that captures the album's concept best, comparing, as it does, a relationship to a prison sentence.

Be Sweet
The opening lines, quoted above, remain Dulli's most recognized and celebrated lyrics. The song begins with a simple VI-V-I progression and a subdued rhythm section, before storm clouds gather, and a dissonant, angular riff rips through the heart of the song.

My Curse
The vocal here comes not from Mr. Dulli, but from Marcy Mays of Scrawl. This is possibly her best vocal performance ever - though her voice begins somewhat uncomfortably, it blossoms into a sultry, bluesy, gutsy performance as the song progresses, echoing the protagonist's search for the courage to stand up to her partner. In the context of the album, this is the moment when the debonair gentleman's behaviour turns inward on him, and his undoing begins. The final chorus is simply brilliant, as May bellows 'Oh, I do not fear you!', seemingly as desperate to convince herself as she is to convince us.

If I Were Going
This is the song that shows the Whigs' post-punk roots most obviously. It's a rolling, quivering, somewhat subdued opener, which is typical of the Whigs. While it can be tempting to skip this track in order to get to the tryptch of Gentlemen, Be Sweet, and Debonair, this is still a great opener, slowly easing the listener into the album.

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user ratings (290)

Comments:Add a Comment 
August 11th 2004


Another good review. You're right, I've not heard of it..I would check it out, if you hadn't likened them to both Radiohead and The Calling, two bands I've never been able to like (or just flat-out disliked, in the case of The Calling).

Though I might still try out Fountain & Fairfax; a great riff and an epic violin passage sound tempting.

September 24th 2004


OK, you've sold me on this band now. I've seen you rave about them so much on the forums that I'm going to get this album in my next order now (although that might not be for a while). Debonair looks like a very good song in that video as well, so I'm not quite going in cold. The other things I've bought solely of this forum's reccomendations have worked, so I'll trust you. And, as ever, good review.

Tangy zizzle
September 24th 2004


I have Congregation, it's a cool album.

Afghan Whigs are great.

Is this their best disc?

Dimes Make Dollars
September 27th 2004


There's a few really good songs ("Gentlemen", "Debonair", "My Curse", "What Jail is Like"), but it's kind of weak overall. I like it, but it's not as astounding as you made it out to be. Dulli's voice gets really grating after a while.

Good review though.

October 3rd 2004


I picked up this CD, partly because I dig "Debonair", and partly because of Iai's pimping of them on these forums.

I like it, it's really interesting. Dulli's voice does grate on me a bit sometimes, it can get a bit too tuneless... but I like it most of the time, he really displays angst well. And the guitars are brilliant, nice and angular. My favourite songs on here are probably "Be Sweet", "What Prison is Like", and "Debonair".

October 3rd 2004


[QUOTE=Iai]I'd say so. With Black Love just behind. 1965 is pretty average - not as good as Congregation at all.[/QUOTE]
Holy shmokes! I got 1965 and I really dig it. I think I will buy this album then. :thumb:

October 3rd 2004


I like "Twilight As Sung By The Twilight Singers," but all of the real Afghan Whigs stuff I have heard hasn't really been my cup of tea. I know a girl who really likes these guys, and tried to get me into them, but it didn't really work. Should I give this entire album a listen?

October 3rd 2004


I haven't heard the new Twilight Singers. I'll check that out, as well as "Black Love."

October 3rd 2004


Greg Dulli is one of my favourite vocalists and Gentlemen is staggeringly good. I'm surprised there isn't more support for Afghan Whigs on this board.

October 9th 2004


Just signed up to this site to say Yes! Afghan Whigs do indeed rule. Gentlemen was one of the first albums I ever really got into. Black Love AND Gentlemen are both absolutely incredible.

November 14th 2004


Good Review :thumb:

Im in luck, Rhapsody has a couple of their albums. I liked Debonair, so im gonna download more :thumb:

November 14th 2004


I've heard of Afghan Wings in the Grunge genre I should check this out, nice review

Distorted Vision
January 7th 2005


I will have a Black Love review up soon, honest. I'm just having a bit of writer's block at the minute. I'm hoping to have The Holy Bible (Manic Street Preachers) done tonight, then I'll crack on with Black Love.[/QUOTE]
Nearly three months ago to the day, in your Gentlemen review. ;)

Not a criticism Iai, just something I noticed. Good review once again. I think I'm going to check out Gentlemen soon.

July 7th 2005


got this the other day and damn was it hard to find. Very good album indeed

July 26th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

What exactly IS the YSI thread?

I must check this cd out...

July 26th 2005


you send it thread. Its the required listening thread in the Pit forums

July 26th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

Ah cool... I'm giving this cd my second listen now... Really like what I'm hearing so far.

July 26th 2005


Album Rating: 3.5

Well you've said that Origin of Symmetry by Muse is a recommened album and I love that album (as well as everything else by Muse) so I'm gonna check this out.

July 26th 2005


Album Rating: 3.5

Wow I feel like an idiot. That was a different review. Sorry

July 26th 2005


Album Rating: 3.5

I'll check it out anyway.

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