Although I still consider “Gentlemen” to be the absolute Afghan Whigs classic, “Black Love” is the one album that makes me reconsider at times. A transitional album as the Whigs were starting to grow past their alt-rock roots and further incorporating soul into their blend of rock, it foreshadows where they would go on their follow up, “1965.”
Every song on here has all the marquees of classic Whigs material – angry rants of past relationships gone bad (“Blame, Etc.”); driving guitar rock (“My Enemy”); slow, crooning ballads of remorse and regret (“Crime Scene, Pt. 1,” “Step Into the Light”). Check, check, and check. But they also add different elements not heard before, such as violins, keyboards (they make a really funky, groovy appearance on “Going to Town”), and…an organ! Any alt-rock band that can successfully incorporate an organ (note to the Arcade Fire – “successfully” is the key word) gets an “A” in my book. Not too mention, they make extremely good use of the piano.
Ok, I must confess, I think it’s just a keyboard with an “organ” effect, but still!
I must say I’ve never found Dulli’s lyrics to be a strong point of the Whigs music. He uses over-dramatic metaphors (“come crucify my heart” – uh, ok Greg, it’s not THAT bad), and he uses the word “baby” about as liberally as a teenage girl uses the word “like.” We get it, already. You’re emotional about things.
The thing I’ve always found interesting about the Whigs work is how they often mesh bitter and angry lyrics with optimistic and high spirited music. They do this more than anywhere else on “Black Love.” I hear Greg’s rants and croons and screams, and ultimately come out thinking hey, this world is worth living in, despite all the crap that happens. There is no better example than the incredible closer, “Faded.” If there is a better Afghan Whigs song than this, I am not aware of it.
Ultimately, this is a very close runner up to “Gentleman,” and achieves a very nice blend of rock and soul.
I like it, baby.