Black Love – Magnet

Give Afghan Whigs mastermind Greg Dulli credit: He makes pretentiousness something to strive for. Maybe that’s not fair; is it pretentious for a white boy to name an album Black Love and sing lines like, “They say I killed the brother to fall in love with you”? You make the call. I prefer to think of Dulli as an actor inhabiting various characters, and in that context, he’s the best. And, thankfully, Dulli’s voice is in better form here than on Gentlemen, which, great as it is, can be painful to listen to, as his voice sounds like his throat is about to explode.

Even if you’re not a fan of Dulli’s dysfunctional, white-soul-brother histrionics, the quality of his songs is stunning, and the playing by the other Whigs is so fierce, it’s impossible not to be sucked in. The Whigs’ love of soul is widely documented – Motown covers, an admission of admiration for TLC, etc. – and on songs like “Going To Town,” there’s plenty of mid-’70s funk trappings, namely wah-wah guitars and “Superstition”-style organ. Among many highlights, the crisp urgency of “My Enemy” harks back to Congregation, while on “Faded,” the album-closing epic, Dulli sings some of his best poetry (“Lord, lift me out of the night/Come on, look down/And see the mess I’m in tonight”) as his fellow Whigs build the track to a beautifully emotional close. No band should even attempt another power ballad after one done so well. Say what you want about Dulli; thanks in large part to Actor Boy, this great band is like no other.

–Matt Hickey

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