Unbreakable: The Star Online eCentral

The Star Online eCentral
BARRING a dramatic reversal in fortune, Afghan Whigs are almost certainly going to go down in history as a bunch of also-rans. A group that made a number of good records and the odd, daring stylistic shift, but was neither experimental nor commercial enough to be truly memorable.

Nonetheless, this career-spanning compilation boasts a shrewd mix of tunes that ought to appeal to the generation of rock fans (I’m talking about those of you who made the move from grunge to Britpop) that missed out on the Whigs first time around.

The creative core of the group, Greg Dulli (vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick McCollum (lead guitar) and John Curley (bass) were ever-present over the course of the six albums recorded between 1988 and 1998 (the first independently-released album Big Top Halloween has been excluded from this collection).

They’ve even re-formed for two new tracks (I’m a Soldier and Magazine) which unfortunately aren’t among the best songs here.

Generally, though, the whole Afghan Whigs tale has been compiled and presented reasonably in this little nugget. Sure, there are a handful of omissions like early favourite White Trash Party, but it’s hard to dispute that most of the group’s definitive material is here.

The songs range from early brash, near-grunge recordings like Retarded to altogether sleeker animals in the vein of Debonair and Gentleman and culminate in the highly melodic layered products (the brassy, occasionally funky stuff like Crazy and John the Baptist) of what is surely the best and (frustratingly) final Whigs album 1965.

Aside from those two excellent tracks, other personal favourites include the bleak adult tale Let Me Lie to You (“discover your lover between the legs of another”) and the rockier Turn on the Water. Dulli’s preoccupation with the politics of sex-drenched relationships can get a little wearisome and I still can’t shake the feeling that the Whigs could have, and should have, done more than they did, but their story is still worth listening to.

– MARTIN VENGADESAN

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