Afghan Whigs – Do To The Beast (Sub Pop)
CD/ LP/ DL
Out 14th April
The fantastic Afghan Whigs release their first album for sixteen years next week, Louder Than War’s Adrian Bloxham likes what he hears.
Just combing my quiff out, got me some grease and it’s holding it up well. Check that the razor didn’t cut me this morning and shift into my cleanest black shirt. Pour the strongest coffee I can make into the chipped mug and put my sunglasses on. I’m ready now, it’s been a while, but I’m ready. I put the record on the turntable, turn the volume up as far as it’ll go and place the needle down.
Sixteen years man, sixteen long, barren years. We got the odd glimmer of hope with the Twins and the solo stuff, but nothing like this, nothing like the Whigs. There’s a fair amount of trepidation here. We’ve all seen the huge amount of bands reform and either play the hits for their retirement fund or release a lacklustre album that just affirms the view that they should have let it lie. But from the moment that the dirty shuffle of the guitar, bass and drum shudders into life at the start of ‘Parked Outside’ you know, you just know, that this is no half hearted return to the fight.
This album feels dirty. Dirty sexy, filthy funk and grooves pepper the sound. The tracks where the guitar kicks in, usually after Greg has crooned the introduction and we wait for the song to explode, are the Afghan Whigs we remember and love. The voice that complements the music so so well is not as broken; the falsetto on Algiers proving giving up the cigarettes hasn’t made his voice any less raw and full of emotion.
This record draws from the past, not just the Whigs years, but way before that, ‘Algiers’ steals the beat from the Ronettes and twists it into a bright flamenco swing. ‘The Lottery’ takes a blaxploitation funk quiver and builds on it to turn the track into a sublime nasty guitar driven masterwork. But it also salutes the future; there is a dark, almost desperate feeling of immediacy to the songs. They sound vital and fresh, in a groove laden sensual kind of way.
The songs? You want to know about the songs? The songs are unstoppable. They go from the fuzzy funk of ‘Matamoros’ to the menace and darkness of ‘Lost in the Woods’. The slow, low and Sensual ‘Can Rova’ with its high cracked voice and the noise of ‘Royal Cream’. The strongest factor is the voice, that’s what makes this the Afghan Whigs, just as it always has. The band are so together that they can be loose enough to swing, put the two together and this just flies.
Sixteen years is a long long time to wait, and to release a collection as instantly vital as this takes my breath away. What an album. Now where are they playing live?
All words by Adrian Bloxham. More work by Adrian on Louder Than War can be found here.