Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Do To The Beast

So here's a brief account of my Afghan Whigs experience to date:
  • Having heard the band's named bandied about in all the right circles, I picked up a copy of 1965 from The Record Shop on Inverness Place. It cost me £4.

  • 1965 was all right but not all great, and so I didn't revisit the Whigs until a book told me to do so. It was Gentlemen's entry in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die that finally convinced me to revisit Greg Dulli and Co, and I'm glad I did - their fourth album is an altogether darker and more rocked-up affair than 1965, which of course meant that I found it altogether more appealing.

  • In 2012, I attended the Optimus Primavera Sound Festival in Porto. Here, I braved the rain (typical - you fly all the way to Portugal and it rains) to watch TAW's set on the Super Bock Stage or whatever it was called at the time. They played a blinder, and later that evening, I chanced upon a copy of Black Love in one of the CD/record tents. That album proved not to be quite as good as Gentlemen, but it was still a wonderful blend of noise and sneery attitude.

And that was where my Afghan journey ended...until this very year. A few months ago, my Twitter feed went bah-nay-nay over a song called Algiers:

This was the first new Afghan Whigs material in about 16 years, and the song's sexy Spaghetti Western sound was even more exciting for the accompanying promise of a forthcoming full-length album.

And so, when Do To The Beast was released in mid-April, I hit Spillers and I added the CD to my collection. In all honesty, I wasn't expecting that much; Algiers had been brilliant, but c'mon, this was a reunion album! How often does a band get back together after more than a decade, do a few shows, and then release an album of 'new material' that's actually any good? least once, because Do To The Beast is any good indeed. In fact, I think it might just be even better than the three Afghan albums I already owned.

Better than 1965?
Yes. I'm only familiar with half of the band's catalogue, but I strongly suspect that 1965 is the poppiest thing in it; that's no bad thing, and the album is a tonne of fun, but Do To The Beast just feels deeper and more satisfying. Compare Somethin' Hot (the first track on 1965)...

"I got your phone number, baby/I'll call you sometime" Parked Outside (the first track on Do To The Beast)...

"If time can incinerate what I was to you/Allow me to illustrate how the hand becomes the fuse"

...and you'll get a reasonable idea of what I mean.

Better than Gentlemen?
Yes, I think so. Gentlemen deals in a dark, depraved sort of sexuality, and while this makes for some seriously scintillating music, none of those songs make me feel like the new album does. Here's Can Rova, my favourite song from Do To The Beast:

That "you don't need me" bit, right at the very climax of the song - nothing on Gentlemen can emulate the shiver that bit sends up me.

Better than Black Love?
Yes. Stereogum ranked TAW's albums from worst to best yesterday and they (SPOILER ALERT!) gave Black Love the #1 spot. But while I'm well aware of the album's 'fan favourite' status, I don't rate Black Love all that highly; I love the idea of it being a soundtrack to a noir detective film that was never made, but the music itself doesn't rock me like Gentlemen and DTTB do.

Sure, I love the ferocious, angry cuts like Blame, Etc. and Honky's Ladder, but Do To The Beast does ferocious and angry just as well. In fact, I probably prefer the nuanced, ebbing-and-flowing fury of Royal Cream to the no-holds-barred bile of Blame Etc.

"I hear you're sleeping with another demon/Love destroyed by love"

So yeah, I genuinely think that Do To The Beast is my favourite Whigs album to date. There may well be something even better buried in the depths of their discography, but of the four CDs I've actually heard, DTTB is the clear winner.

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