Black Love – SF Examiner

4/5 Stars

The Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli is probably best known for performing John Lennon’s vocals on the “Backbeat” sound track. In fact, Dulli is an accomplished songwriter as well as compelling front man for one of America’s best and most underrated bands.

The Cincinnati group’s highly praised Gentlemen (1994) was a great treatise on drug abuse and dysfunctional relationships, but this year’s follow-up, Black Love, is better. From the opening notes of “Crime Scene Part One” — which begins with the fade-out from the last track of Gentlemen — to the final anthem, “Faded,” the CD builds a series of driving rhythms and aching melodies. As usual, the Afghan Whigs’ sound combines the complex and percussive instrumentation of soul music with the guitar muscle of grunge.

“Going to Town” is a driven song about some runaways who set their town on fire. “Blame, Etc.” is another wail made up of pure adrenaline and bile. “Double Day,” which begins with the specter of a violent man returning home at midday “drunk with love … and other things,” and “Night by Candlelight” are beautiful but unsettling ballads on which Dulli exerts his pipes. The single “Honky’s Ladder” has a rhythm section that could make a rock dance.

Black Love is not a departure from Gentlemen. Whereas the ’94 album was about the behavior of men at their worst, Black Love questions that behavior. Songs such as “Blame, Etc.” and “My Enemy” try for moral rectitude, repeating the question: “A lie … the truth … which one should I use?”

The album may be too complex for teenagers and too challenging for an older audience, but the Afghan Whigs have overcome this obstacle before by producing great, if noncommercial, music.

Reviewed by Gina Arnold, San Francisco Examiner (3/10/96)

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