1965 – Wall of Sound
Afghan Whigs lead singer Greg Dulli’s infatuation with soul music has never been much of a secret. His band has colored their bold rock sound with old school style since their debut, even doing a handful of Motown and Stax covers as an EP four years back. Never, though, has that passion come through so strongly as it does on 1965, the group’s most soulful endeavor yet.
The disc, the Whigs’ fifth, was recorded in the sweltering swamps of New Orleans (even before the band found a new home with Columbia Records), and it appropriately takes on the sultry, twilight tones of the region. Songs like “Crazy” and “The Slide Song” typify the slower rhythms this time out, a far cry from the brash, unapologetic animus of their defining release Gentleman. While the sedate pace can sometimes make for a long listen, songs like “Omerta,” where, oddly, Dulli quotes the rapper Nas, are intoxicating, beautifully shaded by horns and strings as they fade into the album’s closer, “The Vampire Lanois.”
What makes the Whigs’ latest effort so engaging—in fact, what makes all their records so engaging—is the presence and personality of Dulli. Like Jon Spencer, Dulli is always in danger of turning his “white love of black music” into a farce, but here, on very well-written songs like the rocking “John the Baptist” and “Uptown Again,” he forgoes the over-the-top dramatics in favor of more sincere and genuine approach. Sure there’s still a bit of brass to him, like on the scorching opener to “Somethin’ Hot,” but his restrained style just makes him entirely more seductive.
1965 is as cohesive an album as you’ll find from the Afghan Whigs and should be consumed in the same manner in which it was produced: in long and languid inhalations, preferably with mint julep in hand.
— Joseph Monish Patel