Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few years, you’d likely be familiar with the Cincinnati, OH-based indie rock act, The Afghan Whigs. Currently comprised of founding members Greg Dulli (guitar, vocals) and John Curley (bass) along with Dave Rosser (guitar), Jon Skibic (guitar), multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson and Patrick Keeler (drums), the Cincinnati-based outfit can trace its origins to when its founding members — Dulli, Curley and Steve Earle (drums) founded the back in 1986, after the breakup of Dulli’s previous band The Black Republicans. As the story goes, Curley introduced Dulli to Rick McCollum (guitar), a frequent jam partner of Curley’s, who had developed a reputation within the Cincinnati scene for his use of effects pedals. With their initial lineup complete, the band went on to write material that Dulli has publicly described as being a cross between a cross between The Band, The Temptations and Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
Although the band has since gone through several lineup changes, a lengthy breakup and a recent and very fruitful reunion, the Cincinnati-based band has the distinction of being within the first batch of bands that Sub Pop Records ever signed outside of the Pacific Northwest, and one of the more highly-regarded and critically applauded bands of the early 90s with 1993’s Gentlemen landing at number 17 on The Village Voice‘s Pazz and Jop critics list and 1996’s Black Love, arguably their most commercially successful effort landed at number 79 on the Billboard Top 200. Interestingly, while being their most commercially successful effort, Black Love was praised for sound that reportedly drew from 1970s Rolling Stones while setting themselves apart from the rock music being released that year.
After their breakup in 2001, the members of the band went on towards other creative pursuits — with Dulli frequently and famously collaborating with Mark Lanegan and others; but after reuniting for a series of festival tours, the band released 2014’s Do To The Beast, which marked both the band’s first proper release in over 16 years and the band’s return to Sub Pop Records. And while being one of that year’s most forceful and seductive albums, the album continued Dulli’s long-held reputation for writing angst and bile-filled lyrics, focusing on bitter, lingering memories of relationships gone sour and on his own long-held obsessions with drug addiction, sexual deviancy, suicidal ideation and bleak, gallows humor. And because most of the lyrics are written and sun from the first person, it gives the material a disturbing and deeply personal air, as though the song’s narrators are confession their darkest, most fucked up secrets, desires and fantasies.
In Spades, the band’s forthcoming album is slated for a May 5, 2017 release through Sub Pop Records and the album, which was produced by the band’s Greg Dulli reportedly finds the band at their most soulful and urgent and while being darkly seductive, emphasizing a pop leaning sensibility. And much like their previously recorded work, the material manages to be veiled. “It’s a spooky record,” notes Dulli. “I like that it’s veiled. It’s not a concept album per se, but as I began to assemble it, I saw an arc and followed it. To me, it’s about memory — in particular, how quickly life and memory can blur together.” Last month, I wrote about In Spades’ first single “Demon In Profile,” a single that evoked life’s uneasily lingering ghosts — the electric tough of a lover’s skin, their smell, their very physical presence, and the sense of loss and confusion that permeates everything once that person is no longer in your life; that hurt and ache are inescapable parts of our lives that makes the necessary process of letting go and moving forward seem ridiculous and impossible; and that worse yet, even when you’ve moved forward, you can’t possibly forget. Drawing more directly from soul — thanks in part to a horn section — the song manages to be evoke Quiet Storm soul-like sexiness with a bold, arena rock friendliness. In Spades’ second and latest single “Arabian Nights” is an enormous, arena rock-friendly song that indirectly nods at Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and The Who’s Who’s Next and Who Are You — thanks in part to Keeler’s swaggering, tribal-like stomp drum work, propulsive synths and blistering guitar work; but just underneath the stormy and swaggering surface is a vulnerability and sensuality that Dulli evokes through crooned vocals.