Black Love – Details
The Afghan Whigs are obsessed with some of punk rock’s most time-honored themes: guilt, pain, loneliness, and the uncontrollable urge to burn buildings down. Theirs is the sound of tough guys tripping on their own power, grieving over their pain, and suffering for their sins. Unlike your run-of-the-mill complainers, these Cincinnati rockers don’t try to convince you they’re victims. They admit to tangling themselves up in the same psychosexual traps they set for their girlfriends, and revel in adolescent confusion that’s no fun now that they’re past thirty. It’s not their style to whine about mean parents or teachers – instead, they’ll just take their share of the blame, coming clean about their woman problems with a mix of honesty and enough good humor to suggest a way out from their arrested development.
Black Love makes these true confessions sound real with a big, chunky sound that opens up the roar of standard indie rock with bizarre soul flourishes. These are guys who’ve covered the Supremes’ “I Hear a Symphony,” turning it into a hymn of desperation and dread. They come on like wise-ass frat boys in love with vintage soul – as singer Greg Dulli purrs to one of his lucky ladies, “Put on your overcoat, baby, ’cause it’s 1973.” The Whigs would probably wail like Earth, Wind & Fire if they could play well enough. When Jon Spencer or the Beastie Boys play with old-school funk, they’re trying to sound hip. But the Whigs give the funk a more ominous twist. They vamp on the love-man confidence of Barry White and Marvin Gaye to make themselves young, horny, and scared.
Despite their reputation as a great live band, the Afghan Whigs have always had trouble getting their great live sound on tape. But on Black Love, they’ve loosened up their music until they sound as genuinely soulful as they’ve always wanted. They mix up their sharp guitars with gospel organ, funk bass, and dramatic drumrolls. Black Love works equally well as a party record and as the soundtrack to the ’70s cop show of your dreams.
The biggest sound here is Greg Dulli’s fabulous voice. He sings in the strangled yelp of a Wonder Bread dork who isn’t half the ladies’ man he pretends to be, and acts out some of the spookiest nightmares in the male psyche. He plays arsonists, crank callers, and drunks just like Randy Newman did on _12 Songs_, and even when he’s testifying that his heart is broken, he knows he deserves worse. He’s a Mr. Wrong that the Shangri-Las and Ronettes would be proud to call their own.