Black Love – Hotwired

Gangsters of Love

The Afghan Whigs
Black Love

By Mark Yarm

Toward the beginning of “Crime Scene Part One,” the opening track on the Afghan Whigs’s fifth album, frontman Greg Dulli asks, “Do you think I’m beautiful? / Or do you think I’m evil?” The answer is both, and therein lies the tension that fuels the Cincinnati, Ohio, band’s soulful rock. The Whigs create beauty while lamenting lost love on songs like the sentimental-sounding “Summer’s Kiss,” but most of Black Love explores the darker side of romance.

The charming and dapper Dulli spent much of the previous four albums portraying creeps, liars, and sexual predators. On the best of those albums, 1994’s brilliant Gentlemen, Dulli showed just how hellish love can be, even comparing a relationship to a prison on “What Jail Is Like.” On Black Love, which is only slightly less effective, Dulli has been sprung – and he goes on a crime spree of sorts. “If what they say is true,” the gangster of love sings on the vitriolic “My Enemy” [music: 280Kbytes .aiff], “They say I killed the brother / To fall in love with u.” Black Love is full of such love-inspired menace.

The centerpiece of the album is “Going to Town” [music: 258Kbytes .aiff], in which Dulli and his lover jump in a car, drive into town, and burn down everything. As they speed off into the countryside, Dulli tells his partner in crime, “When you say / Now we got hell to pay / Don’t worry baby, that’s okay / I know the boss.” Listening to him sing, it’s easy to imagine the charming arsonist running his hand through her hair while slamming his foot down on the accelerator.

All this crime doesn’t pay, it turns out. On the elegiac closing track, “Faded,” Dulli pleads “Lord, lift me out of the night / Come on, look down / And see the mess I’m in tonight.” It’s a beautiful mess, no doubt.

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