Black Love – CMJ

His voice piercing, double-tracked so his gutbucket pain hits you like a shot, the Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli sounds more and more like Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot.

And thank God: The Afghans are arena rock for the alternative age, and this generation desperately needs music by which to raise aloft a lighter. Black Love finds the Cincinatti foursome pulling out all the stops. In his lyrics as with his vocals, Dulli throws out subtlety with his ego, and the music crashes all around him like a testosterone symphony. By now the Whigs have a sound: first, guitar and piano ring out a backdrop for Dulli’s menacing croon; but by the chorus, a cacophony erupts, with pianos slamming against squalls of feedback, and Dulli is howling. After an EP of soul covers and a live set featuring Barry White and Prince tunes, this follow-up to 1993’s pumped-up Gentlemen was supposed to consummate the Afghan’s soul jones, but what’s cool about their R&B fascination is the way it informs their songs, rather than defining them: “Blame,Etc.” and “Going To Town” build on disco grooves but remain rooted in heavy rock. Black Love’s bigger innovation is in the Whigs’ ballads, in which even the strings are loud and lines like “Repeat these words after me, in all honesty,” are mantras intoned to an ex-girlfriend who needs to know the hell she caused. After two superb albums of self-flagellating grandeur, the Afghans have forged an identity of post-adolescent empathy.

File Under: Exile in guyville Recommended If You Like: Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill

by Chris Molanphy

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