Unlucky in Love

The Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen is the first of MSN’s 13 favorite breakup albums. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Defining lyrics: “Baby you can open your eyes now/And please allow me to present you with a clue/If I inflict the pain/Then baby only I can comfort you” from the song “When We Two Parted”
Chaser: Whiskey, a shot glass, and a mirror

“Gentlemen” starts with a howling, foreboding wind, one that sounds like it’s ripping across a desolate wasteland. In this case, it’s the sound inside the angst-ridden brain of Afghan Whigs’ leader Greg Dulli. And it’s the only calm you get during “Gentlemen,” a small pause before an ugly storm.

In the course of the album’s 11 songs, Dulli details his own failing relationship, sputtering, snarling and screaming emotions ranging from hate to self-pity. It’s easy to lash out at the one you loved. It’s tougher to gaze inward and admit your own fault. “Gentlemen” is mostly a look in the mirror, a naked self-examination that spirals into deep self-loathing. “Tonight I go to hell/For what I’ve done to you/This ain’t about regret/It’s when I tell the truth,” he sings on “Debonair,” the, uh, hit from the album. Revealing truth is what this album is all about. Self-reflection rarely feels this honest (John Lennon comes to mind), nor does it rock this hard (the Whigs were such a tight, blaring unit). If you think there is any hope for salvation, check out the album cover, which illustrates that this game starts very early in life. “I waited for the joke, it never did arrive,” Dulli admits on the title track. Yep, nothing funny about this record.

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