Summer’s Kiss Review – Examiner.com

Examiner.com | By Michael Christopher

The severely underrated rock and soul outfit The Afghan Whigs have received a decent dedication in the form of an independently released tribute album, a project that started off three years ago when the fansite Summer’s Kiss put out a call to fans of the band to submit covers.

Receiving nearly 100 entries, it soon morphed into something much bigger, and perhaps a true testament to if not the influence of the band, then at least the undying passion that so many have for it.

Straight outta Cincinnati, The Afghan Whigs were the first non-Pacific Northwest act signed to Sub Pop Records when the Seattle Scene was blowing up. The group bounced across a couple of major labels as the 90s wore on before finally calling it a day in 2001, leaving behind a trail of emotionally devastating music led by the brutally dark and confessional lyrics of an unrepentant Greg Dulli, whom some deemed a bit too honest in describing the male psyche and how it functions.

Sample lyric: “Tonight I go to hell, for what I’ve done to you / This ain’t about regret, it’s when I tell the truth.”

Getting inside a brain like that is no small task, but the artists on Summers Kiss: A Tribute to The Afghan Whigs do an excellent job, be it unsigned indies or much better known contemporaries paying homage.

Sweden’s Sounds Like Violence, who are getting ready to drop its sophomore effort this year, begin the record frenetically with “Sammy,” which best represents the more punk side of The Whigs. The Gin Riots stagger the vocals on “Be Sweet” and jut the music nearly out of control before reeling it back in with a hypnotic bassline.

Switching gears, Matthew Ryan slows down “The Slide Song” to a near hush of a singer songwriter track instead of a simple pop piece. And Chess Club from Memphis put a grungy spin on the heartbreaking “When We Two Parted.”

But it’s the extended family of The Afghan Whigs who trick the songs out the most, changing them up to give them a fresh identity, but retaining the inherent familiarity.

Mighty Fine, led by the falsetto of Steve Myers, a back-up singer with The Whigs on tour for its final album, brings a Prince-like funkiness to “Somethin’ Hot.” Susan Marshall, who also did back-up and the occasional lead vocals on that same tour, turns the let’s-dress-up-and-turn-the-night-inside-out “Going to Town” into a jazzed up, sultry come on.

Grunge icon Mark Lanegan, who most recently toured with Dulli as the other half of The Gutter Twins, immerses his ominous tone in “Tonight,” driving an already creepy song into completely disturbing territory, even ending it with a raspy, “Scared ya – didn’t I?”

Joseph Arthur, a sometime Dulli collaborator in the collective known as The Twilight Singers, tweaks the pleading “Step Into the Light” with gospel tinged harmonies and a subdued organ.

And My Jerusalem, made up of Twilight Singers Dave Rosser and Jeff Klein, take perhaps The Whigs’ most accessible song, “66,” and somehow make it even catchier by replacing the acoustic guitar with the slight but effective tinkling of piano keys.

Tribute albums often miss the point, but by mixing it up so expertly, much like The Whigs did throughout its own catalog, Summer’s Kiss nails it, even down to the cover shot, an updated take on the group’s Gentlemen record by Sam Holden that shows you might not be able to replicate a classic, but you can do it justice.

For more info: Go to the Summer’s Kiss Records website for details on where to purchase Summer’s Kiss: A Tribute to The Afghan Whigs.

Note: This review also ran in the Delaware County PA (Philadelphia) Times

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