1965 – Milk Magazine
Last year, Alternative Press listed 1965, by the Afghan Whigs, as one of the “25 Most Anticipated Albums of 1998.” Time to get personal, and it shall stay this way for the rest of this review: when I saw the Afghan Whigs on the list, the album became the sole record I anticipated. For months I pawed the pages of release dates, wrung my hands like dripping washcloths, lay awake nights wondering how they could top Black Love, the Quadrophenia of the fiery libido.
In the crucible of such circumstances, notions of critical objectivity and fairness dissipate into animal salivation, but the Afghan Whigs haven’t pulled themselves toward the Black Love peak, and I think it’s the right move. 1965 hauls Greg Dulli and the crew away from the deepest, sanity-threatening depravations of lust and focuses them on the red-hot, day-to-day obsessions of ants in the pants, aches in the heart, knives in the back. I can’t argue that point. They have made a prime rock ‘n’ roll, sugar ‘n’ sex album, although the level where the Whigs operate requires a definition of “prime” that elevates them above the paucity and cacophony of their peers.
I mentioned obsessions, including my own, and 1965 brims with the Whigs compulsions: 70’s stylings, the slippery but insistent groove, the series of buildups and climaxes, the magic contained in soul music. Dulli is not a prettily tuneful singer, but he uses what he got to get what he wants, and projects like Otis Redding, Ain’t no doubt Dulli is a soul man: to paraphrase Greg Tate, he isn’t just on ofay tickled by the lick of the tarbrush, and he could gyrate Mick Jagger (circa anytime) into the ground.
Having pointed the finger at Jagger, I hearby opine that Dulli can make off with the Stones’ best shtick, and he can do so with clean hands and composure. Throughout 1965, he trades bumps and grinds with guest vocalist Susan Marshall, an archetype of the brown sugar Jagger recruited to boost his credentials. On Gentlemen and Black Love, Dulli let it be known that he didn’t need the help, but he and Marshall slide like melted butter, and they’re both the better for it.
1965 begins with the febrile crack of a match struck into flaring life, like a dare to play with fire. Half a second later, the Afghan Whigs call the bluff and raise with ‘Somethin’ Hot’, which shoots from ears to medulla, spinal column to hips. It arouses, my friends, and it cannot be shaken off for the rest of the album.
The reasons behind this probably aren’t facilely attributable to New Orleans, where the Whigs recorded 1965. But to me, the city’s location at the Mississippi delta makes it at least the symbolic drainage funnel of a nation’s repression. The Whigs draw from that-“City Soleil” directly refers to the French Quarter-and churn out an intelligent, violent album. The ass-wiggle of “66”, the thundering hysteria of “Crazy”, and the final, sweetly painful comedown of “The Vampire Lanois” uncover the things that boil human blood: then they turn up the heat. I haven’t heard an album so innately tailored to fucking someone’s brains out since the James Brown boxed set. And with concupiscence in mind, I have something else to anticipate.
-Jon M. Gilbertson