1965 – Citybeat

CityBeat grade: B.
CityBeat, Vol. 4, Issue 46; October 8-14, 1998

A track-by-track account of the Soul Pop experience of The Afghan Whigs’ ‘1965’

REVIEW BY MIKE BREEN

The new Afghan Whigs album, 1965 (Columbia), might come as a surprise to some longtime fans. But if you’ve been tracking the group’s progress, its party vibe is the natural next step. Somewhat less heavy and way more uplifting that the group’s previous efforts, the album mixes the substance and style of old-school R&B with the pinnace, swagger and ambition of the best classic Rock.

In some ways, it’s disappointing to not have singer/songwriter Greg Dulli vividly addressing the dark moments of life over the course of an entire album. But what the band has done with 1965 is create an accurate reflection of its live shows, which have always been attention-grabbing, fun, funky and celebratory affairs. At its core, though, 1965 is still unmistakably Whigs-ian – minor keys, catchy hooks, soulful innuendo and all.

We’ve broken down the record song by song and included some of their best lines, since Dulli has become known for his great lyrics as much as anything. As you can see by our totally scientific research, the party meter is much higher than the darkness meter this time around. The Whigs have, apparently, seen the light, and now they just want to get down.

Track 1) “Somethin’ Hot”
Nutshell: The album’s first single (and currently the top song on college music charts), this is a soaring, want-you-badly song.

Music notes: Rolling piano boogie, start-stop guitar riffing and R&B-style vocal wailing courtesy of Susan Marshall.

Party factor: 10.

Dark Recesses factor: 0.

Memorable Line: “I want you so bad after tonight I’ll never walk the same and you’re to blame.”

2) “Crazy”

Nutshell: Kicks off with party noises, then shifts to minor-key somberness about faking insanity.

Music notes: Highlighted by swooping slide guitar, textural, high-range, e-bow styled noodling and chorus backup vocals courtesy of legendary Big Star leader Alex Chilton.

Party factor: 7 (most appropriate for late-night, drunken madness).

Dark Recesses factor: 8 (mostly for tone).

Memorable Line: “I think your story’s jive,’ she said. Ain’t nothing wrong with me if I use it to get me some sympathy.’ ”

3) “Uptown Again”

Nutshell: The best potential hit on the album, it has all of the best elements of a Whigs’ song distilled into a straight-forward three-minute Pop tune.

Music notes: Sweeping string intro segues to a fat and funky verse and one of the best choruses the band has ever come up with, highlighted by an eerie synthesizer-sounding guitar riff and, as is the band’s way these days, the word “baby” sung often and sweetly.

Party factor: 7.

Dark Recesses factor: 7.

Memorable Line: “Baby, you cry too much; I’m tired of the sound.”

4) “Sweet Son of a Bitch”

Nutshell: A non-musical segue into “66” that’s like listening to a porno movie outside of someone’s window with a fan filtering the sound.

Music notes: N/A

Party factor: 10 (especially if it’s a party at Larry Flynt’s place).

Dark Recesses factor: 0 (unless you have some kind of sexual hang-up).

Memorable Line: “Uhhh, uhh, uhh.”

5) “66”

Nutshell: A sensual/sexual song of longing and pleading.

Music notes: Acoustic guitars, piano and that notorious Whigs’ skip beat help this one build to a big-sounding crescendo that’s nearly symphonic.

Party factor: 8.

Dark Recesses factor: 1.

Memorable Line: “You walked in just like smoke with a little come on, come on, come on in your walk.”

6) “Citi Soleil”

Nutshell: A truly New Orleans sounding track that starts with some of the band’s lowest moments – French spoken word and an awful call-and-response moment involving a young girl and an acoustic guitar (don’t ask) – but salvages itself with a celebratory, memorable chorus.

Music notes: Vocally subdued, Dulli sings in a quiet hush in the verses before exploding into the chorus. Also featured are strings, hand claps, wafting female backing vocals, a very funky bass line and some steel drums toward the end.

Party factor: 7.

Dark Recesses factor: 3.

Memorable Line: “Roast some bones and catch a fire, evil minds they will expire.” (That’s the voodoo talkin’.)

7) “John the Baptist”

Nutshell: With an intro that would have fit right in on the band’s previous release, Black Love, this sex/love song slips into horn-laden choruses reminiscent of Alex Chilton’s flirtations with the Stax sound.

Music notes: The track with the most prominent horn parts, which are smartly arranged and downright jazzy at the end – refreshingly not used in the typical “Rock song with horns” way.

Party factor: 8.

Dark Recesses factor: 4.

Memorable Line: “Baby doesn’t want just anything, she wants everything.”

8) “The Slide Song”

Nutshell: A concerned lover song that is soulfully melancholy, this is traditional slow and sad Whigs stuff that’s surfaced on every record since Congregation.

Music notes: Again reminiscent of Big Star – perhaps something off of that band’s Sister Lovers release – with slide guitar, artsy string parts and tricky rhythmic shift from the verses to the choruses.

Party factor: 4.

Dark Recesses factor: 8.

Memorable Line: “I have to ask you, where’d you go; You look so far away, sometimes I don’t know. Where’d ya’ go – I wanna go.”

9) “Neglekted”

Nutshell: A musical counterpart to Erykah Badu’s slinky “Tryone,” this equally strutting instruction to a potential lover has spite and bite.

Music notes: A heavenly choir sings in the background, while angelic backing vocals swim in and out and a groovin’ electric piano guides the proceedings.

Party factor: 8.

Dark Recesses factor: 8.

Memorable Line: “Intoxicated by your aggression, I offer you my warm possession. You can fuck my body baby, but don’t fuck my mind.”

10) “Omerta”

Nutshell: A build-up song like Black Love closer “Faded,” this ghostly day-in-the-life slice is a sophisticated classic.

Music notes: Rebirth Brass Band members get down and dirty. The ominous refrain of “Yeah, yeah, yeah” is now forever coupled with The Beatles’ “She Loves You.”

Party factor: 8.

Dark Recesses factor: 6.

Memorable Line: “I don’t sleep, ’cause sleep is the cousin of death. Least that’s what Nas says.”

11) “The Vampire Lanois”

Nutshell: Named after the owner of the studio where the album was recorded, this is basically just the outro to “Omerta.”

Music notes: Breaks it down to an inspired, impromptu-sounding jam session.

Party factor: 9.

Dark Recesses factor: 0.

Memorable Line: N/A.

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