Seven Things: The Afghan Whigs Edition

As has been documented, I am obsessed with the Afghan Whigs.

1. If you don’t know, the Afghan Whigs have released a new album, In Spades, out today.

2. I pre-ordered said album from Sub Pop, and have been listening to it on streaming since it became available to those of us who pre-ordered the album. That was on Friday, April 21 – the one year anniversary of Prince’s death.

I received the physical copy I ordered (a CD) this past Monday. It has been on repeat in my car since then. Listening via CD is vastly superior to streaming. The individual instruments are much clearer, and the lyrics are more decipherable.

3. Listening to the CD gave me an immediate appreciation for “Birdland”, the album opener; “Copernicus”; “Toy Automatic”; and “Into the Floor,” the closer. Still in love with “Arabian Heights” — I think that’s going to retain top billing for me. I also think that “I Got Lost” and “Into the Floor” may be the best album closers in Whig history.

4. The CD clocks in at a mere 35 minutes, which is just about five minutes longer than my commute. I sit in the car until it is over. Every time. I can’t help it.

I’ve tried taking the long way. Still need to sit in the car. I have tried driving slower, but it’s difficult during some of the louder songs.

5. My Unsolicited Review of In Spades

It’s a killer album, first off. I’ll just make that clear up front. Lean, but not sparse. As well as guitar, bass, and drums, many of the songs feature lush orchestration. Rick Nelson is joined by other multi-instrumentalists to fill this album with gorgeous sound. Other songs are pure rock ‘n’ roll swagger, though. John Curley on bass and Patrick Keeler on drums have outdone themselves. It’s fairly breathtaking the way the songs swing back and forth from celebration to threat.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention guitarists Dave Rosser, who joined Dulli in his Twilight Singer days, and Jon Skibic. In Spades depends on their soaring, chugging workmanship to move things along. Case in point: “Copernicus”, “Light as a Feather.”

Afghan Whigs released “Demon in Profile” as the first single, and that very much set the tone for what came next. “Demon” has Dulli on piano, lamenting desire, and contains my favorite lyrics: “I’m so far inside you now/ I am your silhouette.” They then released the driving, relentless “Arabian Heights”, and “Oriole”, the latter complete with a NSFW witchy video. The album opener, “Birdland” is different from anything the Whigs have done before, a cinematic, swelling letter from the past that leaves us in anticipation. The rest of the album delivers on big emotion with the instrumentation powering it along.

Thematically, In Spades is a departure from former Whigs albums, including their 2014 release Do to the Beast. The lyrics and album art are deeply evocative of the occult. Where in the past, Dulli seems to reflect on romantic relationships, their utter dysfunction, and their endings, on this album, he goes beyond that. In Spades aches with more than a break up. In Spades is haunted. Dulli is immersed in sorrowful memory here, and attempting to pull the curtain aside on loss, grief, and mortality.

6. The Afghan Whigs are going on tour. I bought a ticket to the show in Cincinnati. I am hoping they add a Pittsburgh show; I am not holding my breath, although their 2014 show here was amazing. I purchased the Tour Package ticket, which comes with some swag, a meet and greet – even though I’ve already ‘met’ Greg Dulli twice – and the soundcheck.

If I win a lot of money, I will buy a plane ticket to Chicago, and see that show. I’m really not holding my breath on that one.

7. I don’t do Facebook much these days. I pretty much ditched on it, and a lot of my “friends” there since the election. But I didn’t completely leave it.

Because I found a group there, of like-minded Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers/Greg Dulli fans. We endlessly dissect songs and albums; we argue about Rick McCollum’s influence on the band; we debate the merits of wearing gold lamé or lace to the shows this tour. If you love a band, especially an off-the-beaten-path group like Afghan Whigs, I cannot emphasize this enough: Find your tribe. They will make your love grow. They will help you articulate the meaning of this artist in your life. They get you.

You need people to get you.

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