Flipping for the Whigs

Our hometown grunge stars never forgot they were ‘from Cincinnati’

TRIBUTE BY MIKE BREEN

Cincinnati Entertainment Awards Hall of Fame Inductees 1998

This year the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards is proud to induct The Afghan Whigs into our Hall of Fame. Forming in the late 1980s in Cincinnati, the Whigs became the first band from outside of the Northwest to be signed to SubPop, when the label was a hip underground indie label and before all of the Grunge “hype.”

The Cincinnati original “Alternative” music scene was juiced by the Whigs’ success — even more so when they moved on to the majors (first Elektra, now Columbia). Though most of them wouldn’t admit it, the Whigs gave other bands hope that just because they were “from Cincinnati” didn’t mean they’d never get out of here and that people might actually listen.

These days, most of the members don’t live in the Queen City, but to us they’ll always be “from Cincinnati.” (See CityBeat’s interview with lead singer Greg Dulli from Oct. 8, 1998).

With the Oct. 27, 1998 release of 1965 on Columbia, the band seems poised for further success. Here’s various reviews and news items about the group as they are today:

• The Whigs’ American tour for 1965 began in New York City on Nov. 4 when they played at the CMJ festival. Don’t expect it to end anytime soon. The group is not taking an opening act out on the jaunt, instead billing the night “An Evening with The Afghan Whigs” and putting on marathon sets.

• As always, the band’s live show is drawing critical praise. Concert Direct said of the band’s CMJ performance: “They played each tune with an intensity that was truly inspired.” And Rolling Stone On Line reviewed the group’s Toronto show, saying, “The band simultaneously made that tired old phrase (The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World) seem meaningful again and highlighted why it has fallen into disrepair. Simply put, most of the competition just ain’t good enough.”

• The group’s album has also garnered its fair share of positive press in most of the main music magazines. Entertainment Weekly gave 1965 an A and said, “(Dulli) is one of rock’s finest lyricists.”

• Dulli has remained busy outside of the Whigs as well, though it’s certainly where his focus currently lies. He had a role in the Denis Leary film Monument Ave., completed a side project called the Twilight Singers (an album is due out next year) and is helping develop a film version of the Anne Imbrie book, Spoken in Darkness. He’s also recorded “Yin For Yang (Dixie Peach Promenade)” for an album tribute to the music of Alexander “Skip” Spence.

• The Whigs are also participating in several other tribute albums. They’ll do “Nighttime” for an upcoming Big Star salute, “Woman” for a John Lennon tribute and “Lost in the Supermarket” for a Clash tribute.

• John Curley continues to help operate his Ultrasuede Studios in Cincinnati, providing all types of local acts an opportunity to get their stuff on tape. And guitarist Ric McCollum, who now lives in Minneapolis, composed and recorded a soundtrack for the old D.W. Griffith film Broken Blossoms.

NOTE: The Afghan Whigs broke up in February 2001.

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