Founded in Cincinnati, OH over 25 years ago, the Afghan Whigs have long been a sort of cult favorite band — music journalists and musicians really in the know have loved them for a sound that employed elements of savage, blistering hard rock and classic soul, with lyrics that revolved around frontman Greg Dulli’s obsessions and demons.
Released a few months ago, Do to the Beast is Afghan Whigs first full-length effort in over 15 years and it also marks the band’s return to to Sub Pop Records, for whom the Cincinnati-based band were the first singing from outside the Northwest.
Featuring the band’s current lineup of Dulli and John Curley, guitarists Dave Rosser and Jon Skibic, multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson, and drummer Cully Symington, the new album features contributions from members of the band’s previous lineups and a host of friends from a number of bands including Van Hunt, Mark McGuire (Emeralds), Usher’s musical director Johnny “Natural” Najera, Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys), Clay Tarver (Bullet LaVolta, Chavez), Dave Catching (QOTSA, Eagles of Death Metal), Patrick Keeler (the Raconteurs, Greenhornes), Ben Daughtrey (Squirrel Bait), Joseph Arthur, and a host of others.
“The Lottery,” the first single off Beast started off with four on the floor drums before turning into a blistering, feral track based around Greg Dulli’s angst-filled, howled vocals singing lyrics that have a very visual feel to them – as though they came from bitter and fucked up memories that the narrator can’t possibly forget. However, “Matamoros,” the latest single and video off Beast is probably the most danceable single they’ve ever released, thanks to the use of hip-hop styled beats and angular, mathematically precise guitar and bass chords to propel the song forward in a fashion that’s reminiscent of Gang of Four. And instead of the bitter growl, Dulli’s vocals are a soulful croon that belies the darkness of the song’s lyrics.
The official video for the song features the dance trouble W.A.F.F.L.E performing their seemingly gravity-defying moves in front of my fellow New York commuters on the subway – and it manages to further emphasize how danceable the song really is, as each member seems to be moving with mathematically precise movements.