The Bob, Issue 41, Post War Edition, 1991
Greg Dulli, guitarist and singer of the Afghan Whigs, A Cincinnati-based foursome with harsh but clean guitar edges and ear-grabbing tempo changes, doesn’t take life too seriously. But he takes music very seriously.
Dulli is deadly serious when he describes the Whigs as “a cross between the Band, the Temptations, and Neil Young playing with Crazy Horse.”
To clarify the strange description, Dulli says “There’s soul in what we do. You’ve gotta dig underneath all the loud guitars to find it, but it’s in there. And I’ve always liked Robbie Robertson’s lyrics, his point of view.” Furthermore, Dulli aspires to equal Neil Young’s guitar playing. All of those allusions are represented on Up In It, the Afghan Whigs’ second album (Sub Pop Records). But the Whigs are more than just the sum of their influences. Dulli’s songs are sarcastic and humorous, though he claims he doesn’t set out with the intention of writing with satirical wit. “It just happens. That’s the kind of guy I am. There are no nooses in my bedroom.”
Dulli may not feel suicidal, but his lyrics are rife with black humor and often touch on dark topics such as drug addiction and abuse. Take, for example, one of his sadder songs, “You, My Flower.” Explaining that song, Dulli asks: “What if you could take somebody you loved and plant them in the ground? They would bloom in the spring, you could be with them in the spring and summer. Then they’d go back underground in the fall and winter and you could ditch them for a while. It’s kind of a cop-out. Sometimes it all becomes too much, and you forget why you liked them in the first place. That’s sad to me. Who needs ugliness?”
Up In It was recently issued on CD with some additions and subtractions. “Now We Can Begin” has been deleted because the song now bores Dulli. And three songs from the band’s 1988 album, Big Top Halloween, have been added, as has the single “I Am the Sticks.”
— Dina Williams