Monday, July 16, 2012

The Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen

When We Two Parted

Ladies let me tell you about myself
I got a dick for a brain and my brain is gonna sell my ass to you
Now I’m ok but in time I’ll find I’m stuck
‘Cause she wants love and I still want to fuck

Greg Dulli croons on “Be Sweet” before the guitars and drums build into an excellently ugly bridge. These ugly truths Greg Dulli so candidly confesses populate the entirety of Gentlemen, and it’s what makes this collection of songs so compelling.

Gentlemen, a record that was released in late 1993, propelled The Afghan Whigs to the fringes of mainstream. At a time when grunge was dominating the airwaves, Dulli and Co., soaked up some airplay with a hard rock that was more soulful than the majority of what their counterparts were producing. The guitars didn’t rely so heavily on the power chords that had become so prevalent at the time; Greg Dulli and Rick McCollum combined melodic distortion with slide guitars, octaves and pedal effects. The strings combine with off-kilter 4/4 percussion and odd bass drum syncopations, and in reality The Afghan Whigs have a lot more in common with 90’s post-hardcore/indie groups Fugazi and Jawbox than they did with Nirvana or Stone Temple Pilots.

My introduction to The Afghan Whigs was when that memorable (and now humorously dated) music video they released for Gentlemen’s title track was played on MTV. As a new teenager who had just began guitar lessons, the distorted high string guitar strums and its interplay with the percussion was something I could only wish to replicate in my shitty garage band. In following one of the few 90’s formulas they did have in common with their grungy brethren, the quiet verse shifts into a loud chorus and Dulli yells “Understand! Do you Understand?!” Fuck, was I hooked to that track. I never bought the record though, and the seldom times I heard it at my best friend’s place nothing caught my ear quite like “Gentlemen” did.

My cousin however remained a steadfast fan throughout the years, and when he told me he picked up tickets for us to the Terminal 5 reunion show this fall, I decided it was time to finally download a copy. The aforementioned “Be Sweet” is a highlight, as well as the intensely guitar driven “Debonair” and “Fountain and Fairfax.” But the only track that nearly matches “Gentlemen” in songwriting prowess, with its slide guitar leads and Dulli’s signature implicatively confessional yet self-aggrandizing lyrics, is the ballady “When Two We Parted.” The second half of Gentlemen tails off a bit, but re-familiarizing myself with The Afghan Whigs has me pretty fucking excited for that reunion show in October.

Check out my cousin's post here.

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