In 2014, when American songwriter Greg Dulli brought his creative vehicle back to life, the author of these lines doubted the merits of this return to the game for The Afghan Whigs. It had been no less than 16 years since the publication of the last long format of the training, 1965.
With Do The Beast, the quintet formed in 1986 in Cincinnati, Ohio, made a clean sweep. Only childhood friend and bass player, John Curley, joined the adventure. All the others, including the inventive guitarist Rick McCollum, have not deigned to return to the tormented universe of Dulli. In 2017, this new version of Whigs offered us In Spades; a “passionate” creation as only Dulli has the secret.
After 5 years of absence since the most recent effort, Dulli and his acolytes are back in a rather particular context. Indeed, the new album was recorded remotely for the reasons that we know. The veteran rocker even had to cancel the tour for his solo album, Random Desire (2020). Most importantly, American songwriter and poet, Mark Lanegan, recently passed away from complications from COVID-19. Lanegan was Dulli’s brother. In 2008, the two tortured even launched the excellent saturnalia under the name The Gutter Twins.
It was Lanegan himself who lent the title to this new long format. Entitled How Do You Burn? — an original way for Lanegan to ask “what do you mean by that?” — Dulli, John Curley (bass), Jon Skirbic (guitar), Patrick Keeler (drums), Rick Nelson (guitar) and Michael Schneeberger (synths) present us with the best album of the Whigs since their reincarnation.
Once again, the now 57-year-old musician tells us about his relational traumas with an honesty and self-denigration that, as always, is destabilizing. In jyjathis alternative rock sex symbol reveals to us bluntly what looks like a tenacious emotional dependence:
I know the misbehavior and I know what I like
I’m copping a feel as I reveal my surreptitious appetite
Look for the feminine
She is the medicine
I like to know where I’m going
Again, in ConcealerDulli disconcerts with his fiery — and somewhat macho — way of considering seduction:
I’m gonna take you on a mystery ride
Hustle for the corner and slip over the side
Ancient was the light like a song on a stereo
Musically, we find on How Do You Burn? everything that has contributed to building the enviable reputation of Whigs : a sought-after lutherie (Wurlitzer, strings, slide guitar, drum machine, etc.), the usual soul and R&B ascendants and, of course, this powerful rock played without compromise.
The introduction is eloquent as to the strike force that the training can provide. I’ll Make You See God is the heaviest song in the entire repertoire of the now sextet. Now, the highly quivering song of this How Do You Burn? is without a doubt Domino and Jimmy on which we witness the return of Marcy Mays, the very one who had upset us in My Cursethe flagship piece of this large twisted disc of Whigs what is gentlemen (1993). As if Dulli was trying to come full circle in a tumultuous romantic relationship… We also salute the vocal contribution of the late Lanegan on Take Me There and jyja and In Flames partially recalls the sublime faded which poignantly concluded the album Black Love (1996).
Of course, this modernized version of Whigs is much less nervous and frantic than that of the albums gentlemen and black lovee. However, Greg Dulli is one of the few deans of rock who retains his relevance intact and is no stranger to this singular alloy of sultry rock, soul and electro that he alone holds.
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The Afghan Whigs – How Do You Burn?
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